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liabilities of the city and county at present sustain to their assets and resources, is not likely to be changed for the worse in the future; certainly not if the safeguards against corruption and extravagant expenditare, suggested by recent experience, are by the Legislature authorized and provided.
INFLUENCE OF PUBLIC IMPROVEMENTS IN AUGMENTING THE SOURCES OF MUNICIPAL REVENUE.
As bearing upon the question of future municipal liabilities, on account of expenditures for public improvements, it is interesting to note the result which has followed one of the largest single items of expenditure authorized by the city for such purpose, and which at the time of its inception was denounced by many as a measure of indefensible extravagance. We refer to the expenditure incurred by reason of the construction of the "Central Park;" the cost of which, up to 1869, is returned at $10,463,965.
Now an examination of all the facts pertaining to this expenditure will show, that so far from its having been a burden upon the city treasury, it has really proved a direct and important source of revenue. Thus, in 1-56, before the park was commenced, the total valuation of real estate for taxation in the three wards around the park, the twelfth, nineteenth, and twenty-second was $26,429,566; but in 1866, when the park had been practically completed, the valuation of the same property for assessment was returned at $80,070,415, an increase in ten years of $53,640,850. And further, the revenue received by taxation on this increased valuation, was sufficient, in 1870, to not only pay the interest on all the bonds of the city issued for the park purchase and construction, but actually afforded a surplus of over ($3,000,000) three millions of dollars; or a sum sufficient, if used as a sinking fund, to pay the entire principal and interest of the cost of the park, in less time than the park was in the course of construction.
ASSETS AND RESOURCES.
The maximum of the liabilities of the city and county, on account of indebtedness, having been thus estimated, we come next to the no less important consideration of the assets and resources available for the payment of such indebtedness; or the real tangible property which may be properly regarded in the nature of security or guaranty for the payment of such obligations of indebtedness as the city and county of New York may have lawfully issued.
Any valuation of the public property of the city must from necessity be very indefinite, inasmuch, as many of the items which would be included in any inventory-as the streets, sewers, lamps, public monuments and the like, are not susceptible of a money valuation; and if attached, would be practically of no benefit in the hands of a city creditor; but apart from these, it cannot be doubted that the value of the lands and buildings, wharfs, water, ferry and market rights in possession of the city and county, and which can be readily convertible in open market into a money equivalent, is in excess of every present municipal or county indebtedness.
The valuation of the public property of the city of New York, given by the mayor in an official communication to the board of supervisors, Angust 16th, 1871, was $242,985,499.
In this valuation were comprised the following:
Next to the so-called public property of the city and county, the property most rapidly available for attachment and levy in case of a default in the payment of the principal or interest of the city's indebtedness, is the real estate of the city and county, the revenue derived from the assessment and taxation of which constitutes also the main element and strength of its municipal credit.
The valuation of this class of property for the year 1871, as returned by the commissioners of taxes and confirmed by the board of supervisors, was $769,306,410. But it ought to be clearly understood, that this valuation for tax purposes does not represent any fair valuation of the property assessed, or even an approximation thereto, and in great part for the following reasons.
The taxation required to defray the expenditures of the State, as a whole, is apportioned to the several counties of the State according to their property valuation; and hence there has been for years, and is now, a strife between the different boards of county officials to run down the valuation of property to the very lowest practical figure, in order to divert as large a proportion of the State taxation as possible from themselves, and throw it upon the neighbors; and as some of the counties in the interior of the State have been so successful in doing this as to actually reduce their valuation to thirty, twenty, and even a smaller proportion of the real and true value of the property assessed, a similar course of procedure has been forced upon the tax officials of New York, as a matter of necessity and local protection. And thus it has come about that, instead of the returned assessment valuation of $769,306,410 for 1871-2, representing the true market value of the real estate of the city and county of New York, in private ownership, it does not, in all probability, represent more than forty per cent of such true value; an estimate which, instead of being a conjecture, is based on a large amount of evidence, recently collected by an expert for the board of commissioners for revising the laws of the State relative to taxation.
The conclusion, therefore, seems warranted that the value of the real estate of the city of New York-public and private-which may be fairly regarded as an available security for the liquidation of the city and county debts, cannot be less than two thousand million dollars on which the present debt, as above estimated, namely, $100,000,000 would be equivalent to a mortgage of five per cent.
In this estimate, it will be observed that no account has been taken of the valuation of the personal property owned or held by citizens of the city or county of New York. The amount of such property valued and assessed for the year 1871-2 was $306,947,223. The investigations of the State commissioners lead, however, to the conclusion that this amount does not represent so much as twenty per cent of the real value of this description of property concentrated in the city of New York; or, in other words, that the true value of the personal property of New York city cannot be estimated at less than fifteen hundred millions. Much of this property, it must be acknowledged, can never be reached for assess
ment purposes by any law which the ingenuity of man can devise; or which any civilized people would tolerate in respect to execution; but, whether returned for assessment or not, it nevertheless exists, and by increasing the ability to pay, operates to decrease the real burden of taxation imposed on other property of a more tangible and accessible
It is also to be noted, that if the new plan of assessing personal property recommended by the State board of commissioners, and which is to be presented this winter to the Legislature in the form of a definite code, is adopted, namely, doing away with the direct assessment of individuals for personal property, and substituting therefor, as an equivalent the assessment of individuals on a valuation of three times the rent or rental value of the premises by them occupied, the amount or equivalent of such property returned for assessment and taxation will be very greatly increased; and the financial resources of the city be thereby correspondingly augmented.
INCREASE OF NEW YORK IN POPULATION And Wealth.
In estimating the prospective ability of the city of New York to sustain and liquidate indebtedness the recent and prospective increase of the city in population and wealth constitutes an element of not a little importance. Thus, from 1820 to the year preceding the outbreak of the civil war, 1860, the average rate of increase for each successive period of five years, was 28 per cent; a continuous rate of growth, probably without precedent, in any country. During the period of the war, or from 1860 to 1865, the population of the city decreased 9 per cent. Since 1865, or during the five years from 1865 to 1870 inclusive, the gain in the population was 263 per cent; thus indicating that the average rate of increase experienced prior to 1860, was again likely to be approximated.
The increase in the valuation of the property of the city and county for assessment purposes, during the ten years from 1860 to 1870, was 824
The present increase in the value of the real estate of the whole city for assessment purposes, is estimated by experts to average about five per cent per annum.
RELATION OF TAXATION TO POPULATION AND PROPERTY.
It is also interesting to note the relation which taxation sustains to population and property in New York and some of the other leading cities of the country. The following data are derived from the most authentic sources.
City of New York.-Population, 1870, 952,292; aggregate State, eity, county and school taxes, 1870, $25,403,859; special taxes as estimated by officials, $2,000,000; total taxation, $27,403,859. Taxation per capita, $29.08.
Boston.-Population 1870, 250,526; aggregate of all taxation, 1870, $9,050,420; taxation per capita, $36.
Chicago. Population 1870, 298,977; total taxation, general and special, 1870, $9,256,333; taxation per capita, $30.
But as in the opinion of some experts, the burdens of taxation in any community are properly represented by the relation which the aggregate of the annual levy of taxes sustains to the value of property assessed, attention is further asked to the following comparisons:
In Boston and Philadelphia real estate is returned for assessment at nearly its full marketable value. On this basis, the relation of taxation to real estate valuation in these two cities would be as follows:
Boston.-Real estate valuation, 1870, $365,593,100; aggregate taxation 1870, $9,050,420; ratio of taxation to real property valuation, 1
Philadelphia.-Real estate valuation, 1871, 8491,844,096; aggregate taxation, 1871, $9,026,753; ratio of taxation to real property valuation,
1 to 54.
Cincinnati. Real estate valuation as made anew for 1871, $123,427,888; aggregate taxation 1871, $4,004,035; ratio of taxation to real property valuation, 1 to 30.
In the city of New York on the other hand on valuation of real estate acknowledged to be only about 40 per cent of the real property, the ratio of aggregate taxation to real property valuation would have been in 1870, as 1 to 27; but if the valuation of the real estate of New York were advanced in proportion to the value taken for assessment purposes in Boston and Philadelphia, the ratio instead of being as 1 to 27, would be much more favorable than in either of the cities above mentioned, or in the approximative ratio of at least 1 to 65.
It is therefore evident, that in comparison with the actual accumulated and tangible wealth of the city of New York, any liability, on account of indebtedness, which the city has yet incurred, or is prospectively likely to incur, is very insignificant; and, with a reasonably honest, efficient and economical government, such as public opinion and legislative authority, guided by recent experiences, seems certain to compel, there can be no good reason why the interest bearing debt obligations of the city should not be regarded as the most desirable of investments. I am, yours, most respectfully,
DAVID A. WELLS, Chairman Board of Commissioners for revision of the laws of the State of New York, relating to the assessment and collection of taxes. To Hon. JOHN T. HOFFMAN,
Governor of the State of New York.
I have also received a letter, dated 29th December, 1871, from Hon. Andrew H. Greene, comptroller of the city of New York, in which he
"Immediate legislation is essential for the maintenance of the credit of the city by the meeting of the obligations maturing early in January and to make provision for past claims which are due and which are of pressing importance. Equally important is prompt legislation to make provision for the maintenance of the government of 1872.
"As the law appears now (chap. 583, sec. 3 of 1871), no authority exists to make appropriations until May next, leaving the four first months of the year 1872 without any provision by which payments of necessary expenses for these months can be made."
I respectfully ask your immediate attention to those suggestions, and such early legislation with reference to them as may be necessary and
JOHN T. HOFFMAN. Ordered, That said message be laid on the table and printed.
(See Assembly Doc. No. 6.)
Mr. Benedict presented a memorial from Andrew H. Green, comptroller of the city of New York, relative to the financial condition of said city. Mr. Benedict moved that said memorial be referred to the Senators from the city of New York, with power to report by bill or otherwise at any time.
The President put the question whether the Senate would agree to said motion, and it was decided in the affirmative.
By unanimous consent, Mr. Palmer asked and obtained leave to introduce a bill entitled "An act to amend an act entitled 'An act to incorporate the Poughkeepsie Bridge Company for the purpose of constructing and maintaining a bridge, appurtenances and approaches to the same, over the Hudson river at a point or points between the city of Poughkeepsie and the town of Lloyd, Ulster county, on said river,' passed May 16, 1871," which was read the first time, and by unanimous consent was also read the second time, and referred to the committee on roads and bridges.
On motion of Mr. Winslow, the Senate adjourned.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 3, 1872.
The Senate met pursuant to adjournment.
Prayer by Rev. Mr. Selkirk.
The journal of yesterday was read and approved.
The President appointed as the select committee on the revision of the rules Messrs. Woodin, Robertson, and Murphy.
Mr. Baker presented a petition of citizens of Troy for an appropriation to erect a State armory in said city, which was read and referred to the committee on finance.
By unanimous consent, Mr. Ames asked and obtained leave to introduce a bill entitled "An act to amend an act entitled 'An act to amend the act to incorporate the village of Plattsburgh,' passed April 20, 1871," which was read the first time, and by unanimous consent was also read the second time, and referred to the committee on municipal affairs.
By unanimous consent, Mr. Baker asked and obtained leave to introduce a bill entitled "An act for the erection of an iron bridge over the Champlain canal at Comstock's Landing, in the county of Washington," which was read the first time, and by unanimous consent was also read the second time, and referred to the committee on canals.
By unanimous consent, Mr. Woodin asked and obtained leave to introduce a bill entitled "An act to change the name of the Mutual Protection Life Assurance Society, and provide for an increase of its capital," which was read the first time, and by unanimous consent was also read the second time, and referred to the committee on insurance.
Mr. D. P. Wood offered the following:
Resolved, That the Senate hold an executive session this day, at twelve o'clock, M.
The President put the question whether the Senate would agree to said resolution, and it was decided in the affirmative.
Mr. Bowen offered the following:
Resolved, That the Clerk of the Senate make the usual arrangements for the payment of postage on all papers received and sent out by Sena