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ASSESSMENTS FOR SPECIAL IMPROVEMENTS. Intimately connected with the subject of the expenditures on account of the contracts of the late board of public works is that of the collection of the special assessments for the improvements made under these con. tracts. Considerable difficulty was experienced when work was first commenced upon the preparation of these assessments, on account of the imperfection of records, errors in previous assessments, and the wantof co-ordination of the powers of the Commissioners and of the board of audit, who were successors to the board of public works, and auditors of their accounts respectively, but not conjointly.

In the preparation of the statements of expenditures upon each street to be assessed for special improvements, it was necessary to obtain the co-operation of the board of audit, in whose custody were all the records of the board of public works.

The act of Congress of June 20, 1874, requiring the auditing of all unfunded or floating debt of the District of Columbia and of the board of public works, necessitated the examination of vouchers for final measurements upon which statements of expenditures were to be made up, and I did not feel authorized to make use of these bills until after such examination. An arrangement was effected by which these were taken up for consideration by the board of audit in the order in which they were required for assessment, and transmitted, with a statement of ex. penditures, to the auditor of the District, from whom I received them. The work of preparing the assessments has been commenced immediately upon receipt of each statement of expenditures, and has been done by the surveyor of the District of Columbia, under my immediate supervision. An intimate knowledge of localities and improvements was indis. pensable to an intelligent apportionment of these assessments.

The general method pursued in making these assessments under the board of public works having been submitted to the assistant district attorney, the following opinion was received, and in couformity with it the assessments have been made :

WASHINGTON, Jugust 26, 1876. Respectfully returned. The present mode of assessment has been so long established that further legislation would be required to make changes, and, on examination, I would advise that the existing rules, as explained in the letters of the surveyor, be followed by the engineer. Practical difficulties can be considered as they arise.

W. BIRNEY,

Assistant Attorney. I have required in the case of each bill an examination upon the ground, to be followed by a measurement, if any reason appeared for questioning the accuracy of the bills. In the case of F street vorth, between Fifth and Fifteenth streets west, the bills have been returned to me by Mr. Forsyth as incorrect, and a measurement of the entire street between these points has been made under my own direction. The difficulty of correcting an erroneous measurement is very great, involv. ing more of evidence than of measurement, and this has operated to retard the assessments upon streets wbere errors are detected in the bills.

In connection with the assessments the claims for drawbacks for old material taken by the board of public works from the streets have been considered, in accordance with the request of the board of audit. The evidence in each case having been considered by the board, a statement of the allowance made was forwarded to me, and has been noted upon the assessment-sheets when transmitted to the deputy comptroller. As the evidence in some cases was defective, I have requested the deputy comptroller to impose the additional check of an affidavit from each claimant to the effect that he has not received any other compensation

for the old material claimed to have been taken from in front of his premises, and that he has not disposed of the same. The assessments for special improvements have been made up and transmitted to the deputy comptroller for collection as rapidly as the statements of expenditures could be obtained from the board of audit, and the following'extract from my last annual report gives an approximate idea of what is to be realized from these assessments :

The total expenditure on account of special improvements under the board of public works and under the Commissioners, upon streets not yet assessed, may be approximately stated as follows: Total expenditures up to November 1, 1875, obtained from the records of the board of audit, as an approximate statement from the bills in their hands at that time, both audited and anaudited............... $9, 446, 232 15 Measurements made since that time, being increments over former measurements, and representing additional work........

1,205, 456 31 Estimated cost of completion of all work in hand, including work already finished but of which the measurements have not yet been made up........................................................ 539,778 29 There is retained from the assessment of each street and avenue onehalf the cost of improvement of its intersection with other streets and avenues, to be included in the assessment of the latter. Up to this date this amount is....

236,723 33

11,428, 190 08

These four items give a total expenditure on account of special improvements, not yet assessed, of..........

........ There has been appropriated by the United States, in part payment for the work of special improvement, 3,522,936.18, and of this there is applicable, in part payment of the amount not yet assessed........... $1,511, 837 51 The great main sewers, the sea-walls of the James Creek Capal, and the K-street market can hardly be considered as special improvements of the adjacent property, and should not be assessed as such. Their cost is .......

18 ..................... ...... ........ The repairs of contract-work which should not be as

3, 211,541 45 sessed as a special improvement amount to ........ 666, 123 12 The claims for old material are recogbized as a credit or drawback upon the assessment. The aggregate of these claims upon each street is added to the statement of expenditures upon that street, and when, after deducting half intersections of other streets and the amounts chargeable to the General Government, one-third of the remaining expenditure is taken for the special assessment, the loss to the tax by the credit for the full value of the old material is two-tbirds of this full valte. The aggregate of the claims for old material apon nnassessed streets in the hands of the board of audit is reported at............

........ $76, 016 91 Add to this the value of the old material measured up by this office......

73, 576 41

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The som of these four items gives a total deduction of...............

Leaving a balance of ......

................... Add five per cent. for engineering and superintendence.......

5, 489, 230 96 5,938, 959 12

296, 947 95 6, 235, 907 07 2,078,635 69

Total ........

................. of this amonut one-third is collectible by special tax upon the adja

Cent property, viz ........

The act of the District legislature which was approved May 29, 1873, pledged the special-improvement tax thereafter to be collected to the redemption of the 8-per-cent. improvement-certificates known as “greenbacks."

The deputy comptroller furnishes the following statement in regard to the special assessments received applicable to the redemption of these certificates : From the late board of public works .......

$1,176, 982 07 From the Commissioners of District of Columbia .......

733, 026 61

1,910, 008 63 Less additional drawbacks and corrections, certificates of the auditor of

the board of public works received in payment and canceled, (these certificates are no longer receivable in payment of the tax,) and accrued interest due at time of redemption of each certificate and allowed. 136, 090 43 Amount available .....

.......... 1,773,918 35 The sinking-fund commission furvislies the following statement of interest due:

Statement of 8-per-cent. improvement-certificates. Amount of issue .....

........ $2,000,000 00 Amount redeemed to November 1, 1875.............

. 834, 750 00 Outstavding ..........

1, 165, 250 00

Interest on amount outstanding past due...
Coupons due January 1 and July 1, 1875, received in payment of taxes.

93, 220 00 19, 450 00

Balance..........

.....................

73,770 00

The deputy comptroller's statement shows that there are outstanding 8

per-cent. certiticates not represented by special assessments now avail

able for their redemption, amounting to............................. Add the interest due, as above ...

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Total ...
Deducting this from the special-improvement tax which it is estimated

will be collectible on account of the remaining expenditures unas-
sessed, as before stated, and deducting further 5 per centum for loss in
the correction of erroneous assessments, there remains an approximate
excess of.....

....

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This amount, or so much thereof as shall be collected, will constitute an asset to be applied to whatever purpose may be authorized by law. I learn, upon inquiry from the commissioners of the sinking-fund and the deputy comptroller, that prior to January 1, 1875, and before the pres. ent Commissioners of the District entered upon their duties, the interest was paid upon these 8-per-cent. certificates from funds derived from other sources to the extent of $133,575, for which re-imbursement in cash has been made from cash payments on assessments for special improvements to the extent of $48,325.03, so that on interest-account of the 8-per-cent. the special fund derivable from assessments for special improvements is indebted in the amount of $84,669.97. If the excess of assessments made and to be made over and above the principal of the 8-per-cent. certificates and the interest thereon due for January 1 and July 1, 1875, shall be collected, which excess, as above stated, amounts to $1,689,844.74, there will then remain, as represeuting an estimated surplus of assessments made and to be made upon private property, over and above the above-mentioned amount, the sum of $1,605,174.77.

It is to be remembered, however, that to the District treasury, and not to any other creditor, this special fund is indebted, as respects the abovementioned sum of $84,669.97. The estimated surplus of assessments made and to be made, over and above the claims of creditors other than the District, is the first-meutioned sum of $1,689,844.74; and it is to be

remembered that the availability of any part of this sum as an asset depends upon payment or collection to a sufficient extent, also depends the retirement of the 8-per-cent. certificates, which are receivable in payment of such assessments, or are to be paid from the fund arising from cash payment of such assessments. Meanwhile interest at the rate of 8 per cent. per annum upon these certificates, and 10 per cent. per annum upon the lien-certificates issued upon property the owners of which are delinquent in this tax, will continue.

Jo account is made in the foregoing estimate of the accrued interest upon lien-certificates issued to November 30, 1875, nor is the interest upon the outstanding 8-per-cent. certificates accrued since July 1, 1875, considered. The interest upon the latter is due only semi-annually, al. though it is allowed up to date when the certificates are presented in payment of special-improvement tax or for redemption, the interest upon the tax-lien certificates being computed from the date of presentation of bill to the time of payment of the tax.

The present system of taxation for improvements, which leries upon the property immediately benefited a tax of only one-third the cost, bas been found to induce a vigorous competition among property owners for the extension to them of the benefit of the improvement. Tbe owners of property as yet unvisited by the work complain that they are taxed for two-thirds of the cost of especially benefiting other property, while sbaring only indirectly in this benefit. There is every reason to sup. pose that a moderate increase in the proportion of the tax paid by the property in the vicinity of which the improvement is made, while it might have a tendency to moderate the demand for the improvement of outlying streets where property is of little value, would not retard the progress of the improvements where they are most needed. Up to the time of the board of public works, the entire cost of such improvements has been assessed against adjacent property. It is, of course, to be considered whether such a departure from the present system of taxation would now be equitable.

In the case of alleys, very few of which have yet been assessed, there can be no question of the injustice of requiring the general public to contribute any part of the cost of improvement. These alleys are orig. inally laid out and subsequently improved for the sole benefit of the adjacent property. The cost of their condemnation is now by law paid by the property bordering upon them, and the cost of their improvement should be similarly defrayed.

It is next to impossible to obtain a strictly equitable adjustment of the special-improvement tax in every instance, but I recommend the subject of taxation for the improvement of alleys to your immediate consideration.

Work upon the assessments is now propressing rapidly, the state. ments of expenditures being prepared by the auditor of the District of Columbia, in whose custody are the records of the board of audit. A sufficient number of assessments has already been transnitted to the deputy comptroller to redeem all of the outstanding 8 per cent. improve. ment bonds and leave a considerable surplus, which is rapidly increasing. Very little difficulty is experienced in the collection of this tax, the constant transfer of real estate operating as a spur to those who might be delinquent but for the necessity of clearing the titles to their property; and the fact that the tax is payable in five equal annual installments explains the discrepancy between the actual collections and the amount of the assessments. The following table gives a clear statement of assessments made up to this time. The tabular statement appended to the report of the sur veyor (Appendix 3) shows the streets which have been assessed and the distribution of expenditures since the last published report of the board of public works.

Statement of balances showing the distribution of expenditures assessed

under the late board of public works to and including the last assessment made under said board.

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Statement of balances showing the distribution of expenditures assessed

under the Commissioners of the District of Columbia to and including the last assessment made to date.

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NOTE.- Property-lolders' accounts include water and sewer services and less draw backs.

With the termination of the contracts of the board of public works, their extensions and modifications, the work of improvement in the District has been practically suspended. A few cash contracts have been given out for the completion of such work as remained unfinished and in such condition as to require attention, and upon these there has been expended iu cash the sum of $226,081.57, and there remains to be ex. pended for their completion the sum of $13,894.05. The total expenditure under cash contracts for improvement since November 30, 1875, is $242,608.45. Work of improvement has been continued to a small es. tent, without other expense to the District than the furnishing of such material as remained on hand, by parties who have applied for permits for this purpose, and at whose expense the work has been done, under the direction and subject to the requirements of this office.

The current work of repair and the work of the water department and of the parking commission has been continued by days' labor, and the sweeping of the streets and avenues and cleaning of alleys have

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