Document Type

Article

Publication Date

4-30-2010

Abstract

In 1865, the New Haven Board of Road Commissioners reported that “the constant increased demand for street pavements and sewers. . .convinces the Board. . .that the time has arrived when the citizens will be willing to bear a reasonable part of such expenses as may be necessarily incurred in the execution of those improvements. . . .” The idea of directly charging citizens for a portion of infrastructure costs was not a new one; special assessments on the adjoining property owners who benefited most directly from such improvements had existed, in one form or another, for centuries. In the decades following the Civil War, however, special assessments became an increasing source of revenue and a much-discussed topic in New Haven and other American cities. In 1874, New Haven appears to have collected nearly $100,000 in sewer assessments and over $50,000 in paving assessments; ten years later, at a time when special assessments were beginning to receive growing scholarly attention, the mayor presented a list of the methods of assessment used by other cities for comparison with New Haven’s approach. By 1895, a prominent economist would write, “No American who treats of public finance as a whole can fail to be struck by the importance of special assessments in actual practice.”In 1865, the New Haven Board of Road Commissioners reported that “the constant increased demand for street pavements and sewers. . .convinces the Board. . .that the time has arrived when the citizens will be willing to bear a reasonable part of such expenses as may be necessarily incurred in the execution of those improvements. . . .” The idea of directly charging citizens for a portion of infrastructure costs was not a new one; special assessments on the adjoining property owners who benefited most directly from such improvements had existed, in one form or another, for centuries. In the decades following the Civil War, however, special assessments became an increasing source of revenue and a much-discussed topic in New Haven and other American cities. In 1874, New Haven appears to have collected nearly $100,000 in sewer assessments and over $50,000 in paving assessments; ten years later, at a time when special assessments were beginning to receive growing scholarly attention, the mayor presented a list of the methods of assessment used by other cities for comparison with New Haven’s approach. By 1895, a prominent economist would write, “No American who treats of public finance as a whole can fail to be struck by the importance of special assessments in actual practice.”

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