Considering that it only has a population of just under 8,400 people, Pöytyä’s investments in education are bold: almost EUR 30 million in the space of three or four years. Despite this, the local authority has turned its deficit into a sizeable surplus. How is this possible?
“We plan our investments and choose the ways in which to finance them by looking at the long-term effects on the town’s economy. We have also worked hard to increase the efficiency of our operational economy”, explains the town’s mayor, Anu Helin.
Pöytyä’s school system has been under systematic development since 2015, when the local authority decided to amalgamate the primary and secondary levels of education. This is also the objective of the local authority’s investments. A new comprehensive school in Riihikoski opened in August 2019, and the biggest investment in the local authority’s history – a school in Elisenvaara that combines primary, secondary and upper secondary education and that is estimated to cost between EUR 14 million and EUR 15 million – is due to be completed in 2022. The local authority is financing the project by means of property leasing.
“We started looking into sustainable ways to finance another major school investment last autumn. We researched property leasing carefully in order to make sure that we knew what we were getting into. Experts from MuniFin explained the details to our executive team, the municipal board and the municipal council. Their advice was invaluable. I think it is important that the people in positions of trust in our local authority also understand the financing model”, Helin says.
Experts’ advice on investments
The building that will house the new Elisenvaara School is technologically innovative and features several unconventional solutions. The project involves demolishing most of the old schoolhouse that currently sits on the property but keeping the old library. The pupils will also continue to use the old school canteen until the new building is completed.
The local authority planned the project in close cooperation with MuniFin and technical consultants in order to ensure a smooth transition and the new school’s eligibility for property leasing.
“Leasing gives us time, as we will not have to start making payments until after the building is finished. On the other hand, we are currently paying almost as much rent on the temporary school building as what our leasing payments will be once the new school is ready.”
In addition to advising the local authority on the Elisenvaara School project, MuniFin’s experts have contributed to Pöytyä’s long-term economic plans. The local authority has also hired external financial market advisors and legal experts to ensure the success of its more ambitious and complex investments.
“A local authority as small as Pöytyä has to, and should, rely on external experts. It is not worth us paying the price for lack of knowledge and poor planning on investments of this magnitude”, Helin explains.
“The investments in schools and our school system are part of our development programme, which we are calling our journey into the future.”
“We believe that a high standard of local services and state-of-the-art schools will help us to keep our residents here and make the town more vibrant. It has been great to see the opportunities that modern, safe, high-quality learning environments have already opened up for our schools”, Helin says.
Text: Hannele Borra
Photo: Pasi Määttälä