Cities take it easy on property taxes

Many of the nation's cities are on a kind of fiscal diet. They are no longer gorging themselves on property taxes, the Commerce Department's Census Bureau says.

In fiscal year 1980, property taxes accounted for less than 18 percent of revenues received by the nation's cities. Just 10 years ago, they accounted for nearly 28 percent, and in 1960 for 35 percent. Tax measures such as California's Proposition 13 added to the trend away from property taxes as the major source of city funds.

But it's not as if those financial pounds are gone for good. The report says that cities now depend more on funds from state and federal governments (28 percent), and charges for utilities and other general services (27 percent) for their major share of revenues.

Other findings in the report include:

* Total municipal revenue was $94.9 billion in fiscal 1980, up $8 billion (9. 2 percent) from 1979. Total expenditures climbed to $93.7 billion, an increase of $10.1 billion (12.1 percent).

* Taxes provided $31.3 billion (41.1 percent) of all general revenue of city governments. Property taxes - still the main tax source - supplied $16.9 billion.

* About 70 percent of all city expenditure, $66.7 billion, went to current operation - funding for publicly owned and operated utilities, liquor stores, insurance trusts, and general municipal purposes. Salaries and wages totaled $34 .7 billion, or 37 percent of all expenditures.

* Education continued as the largest city expenditure - $9.3 billion (12.8 percent) of all general spending. Police protection ranked second and highways third.

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