Goode Targets 90% Of Tax Rise For City Services

Posted: May 10, 1988

The lion's share of the $165 million tax increase requested by Mayor Goode would be spent on basic city services in the next fiscal year, with a much smaller portion intended for the school system, City Council members were told during a briefing yesterday.

Under the proposal, agreed upon by Goode administration and school district officials, $148 million - almost 90 percent - of the new taxes proposed by Goode for fiscal 1989 would go to the city, according to Council members who attended the briefing. The school district would receive $17 million.

Such a split would provide $51 million more for the city than Goode administration officials previously said would be needed to balance the operating budget for fiscal 1989, which begins July 1.

Council members, who by law must adopt a budget by May 31, said Goode offered no explanation yesterday of how the extra $51 million would be spent.

"That question was not raised" during the briefing, Council President Joseph E. Coleman said.

During an interview after the briefing, city Finance Director Betsy C. Reveal declined to discuss the additional $51 million proposed for the city, except to say it would be used to augment spending on "certain underfunded programs."

The briefing marked the second time that Goode administration officials revised their estimates of the new taxes needed to balance the city's $1.98 billion budget.

In his March 24 budget address, Goode said the city would need to raise taxes by $67 million to close the budget gap. Later, Reveal said the figure would need to be $97 million, acknowledging that the city probably would not receive $30 million that it hoped to get from the state to operate the courts.

Critics have consistently questioned Goode's budget figures for fiscal 1989, noting that the mayor's spending proposal contains no money for pay increases for unionized city employees, whose contracts expire July 1. Council's technical staff has estimated that a 5.14 percent pay increase for those workers would add $55.7 million to the budget gap.

All 17 members of Council were invited to yesterday's two-hour briefing, which was held in the mayor's office over a lunch of bluefish and chicken. Among officials in attendance were School Superintendent Constance E. Clayton, school board President Herman Mattleman and the school district's managing director, Irvin R. Davis.

The meeting was closed to the public and the news media. There is a requirement under the state Sunshine Law that "deliberations by a quorum of the members of an agency shall take place at a meeting open to the public." Deliberations are defined under the law as "discussions of agency business held for the purpose of making a decision."

Several Council members said afterward that Goode and Reveal outlined a five-year method for dividing Goode's proposed new tax revenues between the city and the school district.

The precise figures for the annual splits were not immediately available yesterday. But in general, the bulk of the money would go to the city in the first fiscal year, with the school district receiving a greater share in later years, according to several Council members.

School officials have reached a tentative contract agreement with the teachers' union. That agreement would cost $470 million over the next five fiscal years but would delay most of the cost until the final two years.

In addition to outlining the proposed split in tax revenues, Goode administration officials explained the components of Goode's tax proposal, including a proposed change from a flat property tax rate to a rate structure in which the taxes would be higher on land than on buildings.

"I think people are concerned about what it does to certain types of industries, like the oil industry," Councilman George R. Burrell Jr said. "I think they're interested in what it does to vacant property and how it either encourages or discourages development."

Councilman John F. Street, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, repeated his assertion that he would not vote for a budget that does not contain more money for authorities to combat illegal drugs in city neighborhoods.

Tomorrow, Council is to hold a public hearing on Goode's tax proposal.

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