The D.C. City Council's Finance and Revenue Committee voted yesterday to set aside about $15 million in the city's 1979 budget to reduce property taxes and provide income tax credit for middle-in-come renter.
The Finance and Revenue Committee, a group of six Council members who determine what is required in taxes to operate the city, did not decide on a specific tax relief plan.
"I definitely favor some type of substantial tax relief for all residents, but we are still looking at several alternatives." said Council member Marion Barry (D-at large), chairman of the committee.
Last month the Council passed legislation that granted homeowners a $6,000 property tax exemption., worth about $109 on their 1977 property tax hills.
The same legislation also granted indirect property relief to the elderly, blind and disabled who earn less than $20,000, by giving them credits on their D.C. income taxes.
But than legislation did nothing for the estimated 54,000 renters in the city - and those who aren't blind, disabled or elderly - and earn less than $20,000 a year. Barry said the intention of the committee as expressed in its action yesterday was to afford those renters some relief as well.
If the full Council agrees to the committee's recommendation, the money to pay for the property tax relief would have to come from Mayor Walter E. Washington's $1.3 billion operating budget for 1979, Barry said.
About two weeks ago, at the recommendation of City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker, the Council voted to attempt to cut about $26.3 million from the mayor's budget.
Council agreed to use that money as a buffer in the budget in case the mayor's proposals to generate revenues fell short of his goal, or to use the money to pay for worthy, but unfunded programs.
At that time, Tucker said that perhaps some of the $26.3 million could be set aside to provide property tax relief. A spokesman for Tucker said yesterday that Tucker is reviewing several alternative proposals that could provide such relief.
Mayor Washington has called his 1979 budget a "no tax increase the budget" because, he said, he did not ask the Council to increase the property tax rate.
However, city revenue officials said they expect that property assessments will increase about 23 per cent over the next two years, which would increase tax bills even if the tax rate remains the same.
"A real no tax increase budget is one where the tax burden of the average citizen increases not at all, or at least within normal inflationary limits," Barry said.
"A 15 per cent or 20 per cent increase in one's property tax bill has a result of assessment increase is a major tax increase pure and simple, no matter what dictionary the major uses," he said.
Before the committee meeting yesterday, a draft report given to members said that property tax increase from highly assessments could he held to about 5 per cent in 1979 by droping the tax rate from $1.33 for each $160 of home's assessed value to $1.59.
Relief for renters could be paterned after the present "circuit breaker" program for the blind and elderly and grant tax relief to renters by giving them a credit on their D.C. income taxes.