N.Y. Property Taxes

Raised by 18.5 Percent

NEW YORK -- The city enacted its largest tax increase in history yesterday when Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a bill raising property taxes by 18.5 percent.

The increase was necessary, officials say, to bridge a $1.1 billion budget gap in the current fiscal year, and to reduce the size of a projected $6.4 billion deficit for next fiscal year.

The new rate is expected to bring in an extra $837 million this fiscal year. It will be reflected in property tax bills going out to homeowners this week.

The city's grim economic situation is due in large part to the national recession and the downturn on Wall Street, the city's traditional economic engine. New York's fiscal troubles were exacerbated by the World Trade Center attacks in September 2001, and by tax cuts and spending increases enacted during the Giuliani administration.

Under the new property tax, the annual tax for a single-family home worth $245,000, currently $1,853, will go up this fiscal year to $2,024. It will go up next fiscal year to $2,196.

Son of Slaves Who Sued

For Reparations Dies

CORINTH, Miss. -- EddLee Bankhead, 119, the son of slaves who filed a federal lawsuit seeking reparations, died of natural causes last week at the Whitfield Nursing Home.

Bankhead, said by some to be the oldest man in the United States, sued several major corporations, including Aetna Inc. and railroad company CSX, that benefited from slavery. His suit was part of a flurry of legal actions filed by African Americans in September. The suits were the first to target businesses and not government.

According to county records, Bankhead was born March 11, 1883, to Alex and Liza Jane Bankhead, sharecroppers formerly enslaved in the South. At age 6, EddLee joined his parents in the fields.

He later worked various jobs until his health began to fail at age 101. He was pronounced dead early on Nov. 26.

Elections Supervisor

In Miami-Dade Resigns

MIAMI -- Miami-Dade County's veteran elections supervisor, who was heavily criticized for botching the September primary, announced his resignation.

Elections supervisor David Leahy said in a letter to County Manager Steve Shiver that he will remain in his job until a successor is hired.

Leahy said that it was time to let someone else run the elections department. He has been the county's top election official since 1981 and is the state's only appointed elections supervisor.

Leahy was not forced to resign, Shiver said, although he added the two had "candid discussions" about the department's problems.

Leahy oversaw the Sept. 10 primary, in which vote tallies were delayed for a week due to technical glitches, poor poll worker training and precincts that opened late.

* CAPE CANAVERAL -- The new three-astronaut crew of the international space station said goodbye to the space shuttle Endeavour and its crew yesterday, and began what promised to be a lonely vigil in space. Americans Kenneth Bowersox and Donald Pettit and Russian Nikolai Budarin do not expect visitors until March at the earliest, when the shuttle Atlantis will arrive to take them home. The shuttle heads for a Wednesday landing in Florida with a crew of seven, including the three-person Expedition Five space station crew returning from six months in orbit.

* CINCINNATI -- A Jewish organization placed an 18-foot-tall menorah on downtown Fountain Square, three days after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a ruling that cleared the way for such displays. Chabad of Southern Ohio set up its menorah a few feet from decorated Christmas trees. The group for years has placed one in Fountain Square during Hanukah, but this year had to challenge an ordinance that would have permitted only city-sponsored displays from late November to early January.

* ALBANY, N.Y. -- Billionaire B. Thomas Golisano spent more than $73.9 million on his failed third-party bid for governor, breaking the nonpresidential spending record set last year by Michael Bloomberg when he was elected mayor of New York, according to campaign reports filed yesterday.

-- From News Services and Staff Reports