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EXPENDITURES AND REVENUES.
$12.60 and $13.40, the average having been, as already stated, $12.96.1
Notwithstanding this curtailment of income, in 1887 the salaries of the policemen and firemen were increased by an amount equivalent to $187,000 per annum, on the basis of the number at present employed, and the ferry-tolls were reduced to the lowest possible point. The task of keeping the departments within the limited appropriations allowed by law was a difficult one under any circumstances, and the difficulty was not diminished by the increase in salaries and reduction in revenue referred to. It is not, therefore, surprising that the practice of borrowing money for current expenses should have been revived, and recourse had to this expedient in three of the fiscal years that have since elapsed.2
During the past four years the city has lived strictly within its income, no money having been borrowed for the current expenses of the Government.
There has been an increase during these four years in the revenue from the water-works, in the amount received from liquor licenses, and in the product of the $9 law; 5 and there has been a decrease in the cost of gas, electric lights, telephone charges, and in a few other particulars.
On the other hand, there has been an increase in expenditure due to establishment of the new street-cleaning and street-watering services; and the School Committee and other departments generally have received a regular annual increase in appropriations.
1 See Appendix, Table 1. The tax rate during the past ten years has been as follows:
* 1888-9, 1889-90, and 1890-91; also in 1885-6. See p. 49.
* Which has indirectly been of assistance to the other departments in permitting a large reduction in the charges for fire hydrants, and thus releasing for general municipal purposes money previously taken from the tax levy for the maintenance of the water-works.
* Owing to an increase in the number granted, based on the growth of population. 5 Due to increase in valuations.
Some saving in expenditure can, perhaps, be effected in the various departments, but it is not likely that a great or permanent gain to the city treasury will be realized in this way.
The revenues of the coming year, 1895-6, available for department expenditures are estimated at $10,914,814, which is about three hundred and fifty thousand dollars in excess of the department appropriations for 1894-5. The departments of Parks, Schools, Police, Hospital, Library, and County will need more money than in 1894; while smaller appropriations than those of last year will, I think, be sufficient for the departments of Public Grounds, City Clerk, Mt. Hope Cemetery, and Streets. On the whole it should be easier in 1895-6 than in any year since the limitation of the tax rate to keep the expenditures of the city within its income.
SECTION 3. Additional Sources of Revenue. Besides the probable growth of revenue from the ordinary sources noted in the preceding section, it would be possible to increase the income of the city very much if the Legislature would impose a direct tax on legacies, or otherwise relieve the city from the burden of sustaining an undue share of the cost of the State courts; or if it would authorize the collection of annual fees from the various corporations and private persons to whom privileges to use the streets are granted. The Board of Police has the power to add $500,000 to the annual revenues of the city by increasing the fees for liquor licenses; and the Legislature can accomplish the same result by abolishing the limitation in the number issued. Eventually, there should be a revenue from the subway. The substitution of the assessment plan for the system so long in vogue for building streets and sewers out of the public treasury would save at least half a million dollars yearly in the net payments from income and borrowed money for street improvements.
SECTION 4. County Expenses. The expenses of the county of Suffolk, all of which are borne by the city of Boston, but over which the city authorities have practically
no control, are increasing much more rapidly than the department expenditures of the city proper. The expenditures for the county of Suffolk in the fiscal year 1885-6 were $416,970.03, while the appropriation for the current year 1894-5 was $570,000, which will be exceeded by about $50,000, making a total expenditure for the year of about $620,000; an increase of about $203,000, or 48.8 per cent., in nine years. The expenditures of the other departments have increased from $7,648,952.94 in 1885-6 to $9,935,686 originally appropriated for 1894-5, which will be exceeded1 by about $200,000, making a total department expenditure on account of the city during the current fiscal year of about $10,135,000, an increase of $2,486,000, or 32.5 per cent. Nor is this all, for during the ensuing fiscal year the expenditures for the county of Suffolk are likely to exceed materially the amount expended this year.
The reason for this excessive rate of increase in the county expenses is to be found in the fact that the business transacted by the Supreme Judicial and Superior Courts in this city is increasing at a rate out of all proportion to the growth of population, which, roughly speaking, is the measure of the necessary increase in the general department expenditures of the city. New sessions are being continually ordered by the Legislature or established by the courts; and I am informed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court and the Chief Justice of the Superior Court that in their opinion fully one-half of the judicial business of the Commonwealth is now transacted in this city. This concentration of litigation in Boston is due to the law governing the venue of transitory actions, which enables attorneys all over the Commonwealth to take advantage of the greater facilities for transacting business, of the more constant presence of the judges, and of the larger verdicts which are returned by Suffolk County juries, to bring their actions in this county.
1 Owing to transfers from surplus revenue.
2 The estimated present population of the city is 500,000, an increase of 110,000, or per cent., over the result obtained in the State census of 1885.
The new court house, covering four times the area occupied by the buildings formerly used for court purposes, is already crowded, a result largely due to the unexpected increase in business. The expense of maintaining the new building in proper repair will also be considerably more than the amount expended on the old buildings for this purpose.
The tax limiting legislation of 1885 prohibited the city of Boston from raising by taxation for municipal purposes (exclusive of requirements on account of the city debt and the State tax) a sum greater than nine dollars on the thousand of the average valuations for the preceding five years, less abatements; while other cities were allowed to raise by annual taxation for municipal purposes a sum equivalent to twelve dollars on every thousand of the average valuations. for the preceding three years, less abatements, and were in addition permitted to raise the requirements on account of their city debt and State and county taxes.1 Inasmuch as the expenditures of the county of Suffolk were municipal expenditures of the city of Boston within the meaning of this law, the limit of taxation allowed in Boston was in reality less than that allowed for other cities, not only to the extent of the difference between nine dollars and twelve dollars on the thousand, but also to the extent of the expenditures for county purposes.
This inequality was partly removed in 1887 by a law which permitted the city of Boston to raise for county expenses a sum not exceeding $425,000 a year in addition to the amount permitted under the statute of 1885.2
The law still discriminated between Boston and the other cities of the Commonwealth, as in the case of this city the amount that could be added to the general taxes for county purposes was limited to $425,000, while other cities and towns were permitted to add the actual amount of the expenditure for county purposes. This discrimination is understood to have been based upon the fear that the city authorities of Boston, who themselves had the power to levy the county 2 Stat. 1887, clrap. 281.
1 Stat. 1885, chap. 178.
EXPENDITURES AND REVENUES.
tax, might make the annual appropriation for county purposes larger than necessary, transfer the surplus to the use of the municipal departments, and thus effectually evade the law limiting the rate of taxation. The limit was therefore fixed at $425,000, which was the appropriation for county expenses for the fiscal year 1886-7. This theory. however, omitted to take into account the inevitable increase from year to year in the expenditures for the county of Suffolk, which, for reasons stated, has been greater than anticipated.
Under these circumstances, attempts have frequently been made to induce the Legislature either to allow the city to assess in the annual tax the entire amount of the county expenditures, as well as the amount allowed by the law of 1885, or else, if it was still thought desirable to impose a limit on the county expenditures, to increase that limit above the $425,000 allowed by the Act of 1887. I have never believed, however, that these applications were wise, and have objected before committees of the Legislature to the passage of any law which, by increasing the amount to be taxed for county purposes, would indirectly increase the rate of taxation for current expenditures beyond the limits fixed by the /Statutes of 1885 and 1887. It is possible, with economy and constant watchfulness, to administer the business of the city and county within the rate of taxation limited by these two laws; and that limit should not, in my opinion, be increased.
I do not, however, disagree with those who consider the present situation unfairly burdensome upon the city, which, through the operation of the laws relating to the venue of transitory actions, is obliged to pay an undue proportion of the expenses of litigation in Massachusetts; but the remedy for this condition of affairs, I conceive to be, not additional taxation of the citizens of Boston for the convenience of litigants from other parts of the State, but a readjustment of the judicial expenditures of the Commonwealth upon some basis which shall not impose upon the people of this city the cost of trying cases in which they are not concerned.