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Sources of Revenue for Street Improvement

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SOURCES OF REVENUE FOR STREET IMPROVEMENT.

Funds required for the improvement of streets in cities are commonly derived either from general taxes, from assessment upon property in vicinity of the improvement, or from a combination of the two. In some instances also special taxes are levied upon vehicles, or upon business interests which make large use of the streets, for the benefit of the paving funds.

Mr. J. L. Van Ornum has brought together* data showing the practice in fifty American cities. In a few of these the whole charge is placed upon the general taxes. In a few, the whole charge is laid upon adjoin ing property, while in a larger number the cost is dis tributed between the two in varying proportions. Some cities pay for the intersections of streets from general taxes, laying the whole cost in the blocks upon property fronting the street. Some also pay a share (about 20 per cent to 40 per cent) of the cost between intersections from general taxes; while in other instances the city pays a fixed percentage of the whole cost, the remainder being assessed upon the property benefited. Some cities pay for the grading of the street from general funds, while others include the grading in the cost of paving and assess it upon the property.

There has been considerable discussion on the part of municipal officers concerning the proper method of apportionment, and many different opinions have been advanced as to what should be required in fairness to all of the interests involved. Some contend that the streets are for general public use, and that the people of the city as'a whole should pay for their improvement, thus ignoring the advantage that the improvement of streets may be to the owners of abutting property in the increase of values. Others insist that it is fair to tax the whole of the improvement upon abutting property, claiming that the main benefit is to that property, and that when improvement becomes general each will have paid his proper proportion of cost. Between these two extremes are the larger number who recognize the interest of both parties and advocate the division of cost between the city as a whole and the abutting property in varying proportions. Opinions

differ as to what these proportions should be, and it is evident that the public interest in some streets of a city is much greater than in others. Some streets are main arteries for travel, others but very little used, and the relative values to the general public and to the property owner are very different in the two cases.

It would be quite impossible to devise any general method of apportioning the costs of street work among the various interests involved in such away as to tax each in proportion to the benefit derived from the improvement. It is generally recognized that the city as a whole is interested in the improvement of its streets and also that property in the immediate vicinity of an improvement is directly benefited thereby. Therefore it may be considered fair and reasonable to tax either or both for the improvement. A division of cost would without doubt be the more equitable method, but the feasibility of securing necessary funds for proper improvement by one method or the other must be the determining factor in selecting the method. In some instances where the funds derived from general taxation are closely limited, the assessment of the whole cost of street improvements upon abutting property makes possible an extent of improvement which would other wise be out of the question, with manifest advantage to the property taxed.

In assessing the cost of street improvement upon property in the locality of the work, the usual method is to apportion the cost upon abutting property in proportion to the frontage upon the street improved. Frequently the apportionment is made in proportion to area on each side of the street within a certain dis tance of it (sometimes half a block). In a few instances a combination of the two methods is used, by which a portion of the cost is assessed upon abutting property in proportion t9 frontage and the remainder upon area within certain distance. The frontage assessment seems reasonably fair and is most commonly employed,