Amid persistent concerns about inequities in public services and a lack of power in local government, Staten Island, New York City's least-populated borough with fewer than 400,000 residents, is again considering independence from the city.

Staten Island voters will decide Tuesday whether to take the first step toward secession.

If the referendum passes, a commission of 18 Staten Islanders will be chosen to study the fiscal and political consequences of secession. In 1994, a new charter would be submitted to Staten Island voters, although the state legislature and governor would have the final say.

Talk of secession has been heard since 1898, when residents voted by a slim margin to join the incorporated city of New York. The talk increased in 1989 when the Supreme Court ruled the city's Board of Estimate unconstitutional under the one-man, one-vote rule. Until then, Staten Islanders had political parity with the more populated boroughs. The board was abolished and most of its taxing and budget authority was transferred to the City Council, where only three of 51 members represent Staten Island.

Secession opponents led by Borough President Guy V. Molinari (R) warn that costs for services would increase and property taxes would quadruple after secession. New York Mayor David N. Dinkins (D) said, "Secession is a step into the night, along a treacherous and foggy path that has never been taken."