The Sharon Pratt Dixon inauguration committee has raised $450,000 of the projected $500,000 cost of Wednesday's gala, most of it through the sale of tables, seats and suites for the inaugural ball at Union Station, a spokesman for the committee said.

"The costs range from $1,500 for box seats to $50,000 for a sky box, and most of them are sold out," said Ed Bruske, of the inaugural committee.

The sky boxes, on the mezzanine level, seat 48 people.

Mayor Marion Barry spent $250,000 for his most expensive office-taking celebration in 1987, which lasted four days.

Because the District of Columbia is such a young government and has had only two transitions in government, there are no statutes dealing with the financing of transitions or inaugurations, said Marianne Coleman Niles, director of the Office of Campaign Finance for the District.

Vernon E. Jordan Jr., chair of the Dixon transition committee, asked Niles to issue an opinion on financing the shift to a Dixon administration.

"The reason I felt it was important to render an opinion is while {Dixon} is not a public official, she will soon be and I thought it important they not do anything that could be interpreted as being unethical," Niles said in a telephone interview.

Niles said in her opinion she remained in strict compliance with the law, but also tried to be creative in her interpretation.

"Knowing money is tight from the District budget and campaign fund, I wanted to see if we could creatively carve out a solution to put on a first-class inaugural without being ostentatious or extravagant," Niles said.

A section of the District's personnel regulations says government employees must not accept gifts "from private donors who are regulated by or have contracts with the D.C. government. However, an exception is made for donations of food and refreshments of nominal value and on infrequent occasions," Niles wrote.

The inauguration falls within this exception and is planned for the public as well as D.C. government employees, she said.

"In view of the large number of participants expected at these events, the per person value of any private donation is likely to be nominal," Niles wrote.