An annual public discussion on Sofia’s budget at least enables Sofians to scrutinise city hall councillors’ plans for addressing their capital’s problems and, above all, hear how they plan to spend their budget.
As in the past most attention was focused on the city hall’s plan to combat Sofia’s ever worsening traffic problems: potholed roads, endless traffic jams, dilapidated and dirty public transport vehicles and lack of parking facilities in the city centre. Officially, transport, together with education, social services and the environment, were described as Sofia’s main priorities for 2010.
This year the debate on the 2010 budget started in the middle of December and continued until the first half of January after Minko Gerdjikov, Sofia Deputy Mayor on Finance, presented a final figure of 1.2 billion leva earmarked for the city’s budget in 2010. For more than a month city hall councillors and transport committee members had the chance to present their views on how Sofia transport can improve in 2010 and at what cost.
By law, municipalities must adopt their budgets within 45 days after Parliament adopts the Budget for the respective year. This year the state Budget was adopted on December 15 2009. Hence municipalities have until the end of January 2010 to adopt their budgets. Naturally all agreed that, given the economic downturn, the funds provided for transport (including road repairs) were insufficient but the abiding view was that in 2010 Sofia will focus on three main areas when it comes to transport: new road repair schemes, expanding its paid blue parking zone and optimising its public transport network.
Road repairs The road repair budget in 2010 was pegged at 27 million leva, three million leva lower than in 2009 because of an expected fall in revenue from taxes and fees this year. This means that Sofia will try to do the same job as in 2009 with less money. In other words, emergencies will be addressed by road repair companies who get their money from the city hall given that Sofia owes private contractors 18 million leva for 2009 on construction services’ contracts.
In 2010 it seems that priority will be given to projects that have already been started. In other words, nothing new will be launched in 2010 in terms of road rehabilitation except for the annual post-winter filling of potholes and the upgrading of five intersections.
With money short, councillors decided to address the methods by which potholes are filled. Currently, three companies perform this job. These companies’ contracts with the city hall are due to expire in the summer, handing the city hall the chance to change how road repairs are carried out in the future, either by pressing for greater efficiency or hiring new concessionaires.
The new scheme will probably divide Sofia into six zones, each covered by a separate company. Every zone will include four neighbouring administrative regions and will match the zones under which refuse collection companies work. Currently, the city is divided into three zones when it comes to road repairs. An unknown quantity is what will happen if city hall fails to find six different companies for each of the newly divided six zones and whether, in such cases, one company can take over more than one zone.
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