NEEDS OF STRALDJA MUNICIPALITY
Over-all View: Total budget for the municipality is around 3,500,00 leva. In prior years about 21% went to welfare but this year’s budget for welfare is running between 35 and 38%. Although the law requires 5% of budget to be spent on the infrastructure, this is impossible with the number of other expenses. About 90,000 leva are required just for maintenance. A third of the total budget goes for education.
The municipal council has established priorities for the city to follow in terms of budget. These are (in descending order of priority): salaries, education, social support (welfare), public buildings and utilities, and (last) infrastructure.
Specific needs of the community, as identified by the administrative staff (not prioritized):
Recommendations for specific areas:
Education: There are nine schools in the municipality, three here in the town of Straldja and five out in the villages. They hire about 250 people in all in the school system. One third of the city budget goes to education. The funds they have are sufficient to pay salaries and provide minimal utilities. They have no funds for capital investment or to make repairs on schools.
Average salary for a teacher in Straldja is 243 leva a month (about $120). Counting all staff, average salaries are $203 leva.
The villages are getting smaller every year and the population is getting older. Today, about half the population in most villages is retired and surviving on a pension. (Pensions in Bulgaria range from 46 leva a month to 160 leva – most people in the villages, having worked only as farmers, get the minimum pension of less than $23 a month.) This means the school-age population is getting smaller each year. Children must be bused from smaller villages into larger ones. The city’s two school buses are so old they are no longer usable. Transportation of children is done only on an emergency basis and private companies are paid to handle it. In all, 150 children are bused every day. This is so expensive, however, that the rest of the budget is hurt by it. I’m trying to locate someone who could donate a couple of used school buses to the city.
The situation is such that one small village provides schooling for five surrounding villages, and the school population is still so small that "mixed classes" are necessary – children from five different grades are being taught in a single classroom.
School buildings are old and in need of major repair work. The newest school (the one where Edith will be teaching) is 15 years old. The schools have only one computer, which is used for administrative work. There are no computers at all for use by children or by teachers. Also, there is not a single photocopy machine in any school in the municipality. And no tape recorders or other electronic equipment.
The municipality also operates 9 kindergartens for younger children. School lunches are unknown in Bulgaria, but children are generally provided breakfast each day. The municipality also hires a medical practitioner and four nurses.
They are trying to set up NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to do the same function. They have three such but they aren’t functioning well.
Need to Do:
Culture. Cultural programs only account for 2% of the total budget. There are 20 chitalishtes in the municipality, one in Straldja and one in each of 19 of the 22 villages. Chitalishtes are traditional Bulgarian institutions, originally developed in the early 1800s as a way to preserve Bulgarian culture during Turkish occupation.
The main chitalishte (or culture center) is in the town of Straldja. It was originally built in 1892. A new one was built in 1932 and this one burned down in 1996. The current one is still under construction. At least 300,000 leva is required to complete construction (nearly $150,000.) Chitalishtes are NGOs and must be supported by the general public. Here, the municipality pays the salary of the Secretary of the chitalishte but can’t afford anything else.
The chitalishte sponsors musical concerts and folk activities. A folk dance club operates from the chitalishte, but must meet elsewhere until the building is completed.
Need to Do:
Roma integration. The town of Straldja has an estimated 30% Roma or gypsy population. This is nearly 2000 souls. They are in two ghettos, one to the east of town and one to the north, the north one being the largest.
Roma children have their own school, located in what was originally the city school building . In this school are 400 students, all gypsies. Although the school covers the first 8 grades, most of the students only attend through fourth grade. At this time, the Roma custom is for children to get married, so many quit at this time. Those who complete all eight grades are then transferred to the regular school .
The first four grades include not only the regular subjects but also special classes in how to assimilate with the Bulgarian population – cultural survival. Problems are many. Teachers face problems like: few or no textbooks, language barriers (many students speak Roma or Turkish), lack of clothing for the children and malnutrition among the children – resulting in problems with attendance. Some teachers collect clothing from friends and go into the Roma community giving children clothing so they’ll come to school! Another reason to get them into the school is so they’ll get the daily breakfast – which might be the only good meal of the day.
Again, there is an NGO organized to get support from the community but they are disorganized and ineffective.
Need to Do:
Water and Waste Treatment
Trash: There are two collection areas for trash in the municipality. Both are land-fill sites, one located southeast of the town of Straldja and the other just west of the town. These areas are not fenced in, so there is potential for future injuries to visitors. There is no recycling taking place and there is no physical plant for sorting and processing recycled waste.
Need to Do:
Water: The existing water system was built in 1960. Water comes from wells back in the mountains. Other than a crumbling infrastructure, the system seems to work fairly well. One problem in the town of Straldja is the absence of any form of zonal valve system. In case of a water-main breakage, all water must be cut off for the entire community. What is needed is a series of valves which can limit outages to specific neighborhoods. This would also save water losses in event of a break in the line.
All 22 villages in the municipality have problems with water. Some villages have only a single, common water supply. Many use wells that date back to the time of the Turkish occupation.
Need to Do:
Waste Water: Most waste-water treatment is limited to septic tanks in each individual home in the municipality. Bloks in the town each have their own septic-tank system. Septic tanks are a problem because of the high water table beneath the municipality. Although village wells supposedly are isolated from septic tanks, this probably should be looked into by scientists to determine whether specific portions of the water table are infected or contaminated. There is no treatment system for water at all.
Need to Do:
Records Keeping: In effect, all public records in the municipality are kept by hand. One computer (an old 486) is available for some data storage, but without a network hook-up is worthless for transfer of data to the national system, or for transferring data within the municipality.
Need to Do:
Building and Planning: The building and planning office seems to be well-staffed but lack essential modern equipment necessary to their work. This needed equipment includes: computers, copy machines and digital theodolites.
Need to Do: