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Mayor Says Cambridge Faces Huge Tax Rise, Budget Cuts

By William E. Mckibben

Cambridge residents face a $30 to $50 increase on next year's tax rate, Cambridge Mayor Francis H. Duehay '55 said last night.

"This city is going to have a tax increase the likes of which it has never seen," Duehay, who called for "serious consideration" of all possible budget cuts, said at a school committee budget hearing last night.

Duehay estimated the increase would cost the average resident $500 to $900, and push the city's tax rate over $200.

The city's tax rate decreased 20 cents last year, and currently stands at $179.50.

The proposed school budget, even without teacher salary increases, will cost citizens $11 on the tax rate, Superintendent of Schools William Lannon said last night.

The tax increase will put the city well above Gov. Edward King's 4-per-cent spending increase cap, but Duehay said inflation would force the city to override that limit.

"If we are going to raise salaries, then there is no way we can stay within the 4-per-cent cap. And with 18-per-cent inflation, we have to raise salaries," Duehay said.

"We are deluding ourselves if we think we can avoid serious budget cutbacks," Duehay said.

The mayor called for consideration of budget cutbacks he said were necessary to keep the tax increase in the $30 to $50 range.

"We need to seriously consider closing the older elementary schools," Duehay told the school committee. "I went to the Agassiz School and I love it. But we may have to look hard at closing it and other schools," he said.

Lannon's budget called for closing the Agassiz School and three others--the Lincoln, Hagerty and St. Mary's schools--only as a last resort, if the City Council refuses to allow the school system to exceed the state-mandated cap.

The tax increase may persuade local citizens to vote in favor of the controversial tax-cutting Proposition 2 1/2 on the November state ballot, Duehay said.

"I don't know how people are going to feel after getting their tax bills but I have the strong feeling it is going to lead people to vote for Proposition 2 1/2," Duehay said, adding that if the referendum passed it would "mean the destruction of local government as we know it."

School committee members wrangled over cuts in the school budget at last night's first public hearing.

The budget, which exceeds the King cap by 9 per cent, still calls for a reduction of nearly 80 teachers and many programs.

Committee members criticized cuts in the elementary science and remedial reading programs. "In a budget this size, I don't see how we can make cuts of this magnitude in one area [elementary science, where Lannon cut eight teachers]," committee vice chairman Alice Wolf said last night.

To meet the state-mandated 4 per cent cap, Lannon told the meeting last night average class size would have to increase 15 per cent, more than 200 staff would be laid-off and many major programs, including all elementary school libraries, would be wiped out.

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