Compromise solution to Boston's financial crisis awaits state approval

One of the nation's longest and bitterest municipal financing deadlocks appears to be over. The six-month Boston impasse over funding of court-ordered property tax abatements was broken Aug. 25 with city council approval of a compromise $75 million bonding authorization sought by Mayor Kevin H. White.

Everything hinges, however, on state lawmaker approval of special legislation to finance the proposed bonding through a 15 percent parking excise tax, a $500 -per-parcel levy on conversion of buildings to condominiums, and improved collection of parking violation fines through a new city agency.

Passage of the measure would:

* Mean the rehiring of some 250 police and firefighters laid off in recent months and assure certain minimum manpower levels -- 1,764 firefighters and 1, 914 policemen.

* Allow the city to resume providing firefighting aid to 33 surrounding communities once fire department ranks were brought back up to the minimum authorized levels.

* Assure at least partial restoration of several other curtailed municipal programs, including street cleaning, recreation, and elderly services.

Council approval of the complex measure came on a lopsided 8 to 1 vote following two weeks of intense lobbying by police and firefighters, many of whose jobs had been held hostage by the politicial infighting between Mayor White and what had been an increasingly strong-willed council.

But council members, who had pressed for legislation permitting council override of mayoral reductions in council-approved municipal budgets, backed down when White aides emphasized such a provision would jeopardize the compromise package -- including the police and firefighter rehirings.

The council's acceptance of the funding package and most of the mayor's terms came only 10 weeks before Boston's Nov. 3 election in which six of the panel's nine members are seeking reelection. Mayor White, on the other hand, has two years remaining in his current four-year term.

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