Municipal Government of Padua: A representative Italian City

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Municipal Affairs

Data di pubblicazione: 01/06/1899

Municipal Government of Padua: A representative Italian City

«Municipal Affairs», June 1899, pp. 215-233

 

 

 

[Note. – The dearth of literature in the English language upon Italian municipal conditions is very marked. Ordinarily, the American student of comparative governments contents himself with a survey of Great Britain, Germany and France, although there is much of interest and value in other countries. However, it is only by ascertaining what movements are world-wide that the trend of events can be perceived and foretold. In view of these facts, this article by Professor Einaudi is deserving of special attention – Editor.]

 

 

The opinion may prevail in some quarters that the Italian commune has preserved the same independence and autonomy which the sovereign communities enjoyed during the middle ages. As a matter of fact, communal liberties disappeared little by little, first under the tyranny of the small sovereigns (signorie) and later under the rule of different foreign states even to the middle of the present century in the case of Lombardo-Venetia. The central government appropriated to itself more and more of the functions that formerly belonged to the local bodies, so as to reduce the latter to the position of subordinate and dependent authorities. Still these bodies maintained until the end of the last century a great amount of local autonomy. Peculiar customs survived, among others the assemblies of the housefathers (capi famiglia), which either in open air or in the church would deliberate upon common affairs. It remained for the Napoleonic armies to introduce into Italy, together with the French revolutionary principles, the centralized and despotic order instituted by the first Napoleon.

 

 

Italian legislation, beginning with 1800 and more particularly with 1860 – the beginning of political unification – was shaped in entire accordance with the principles of French legislation. All differences between province and province were wiped out; the rules of local government were made uniform, no matter whether the commune were rural or municipal, whether it were a pigmy settlement of about fifty inhabitants, lost somewhere in the midst of the Alps, or a great urban center with half a million people.

 

 

The commune: Thus, the commune is an administrative subdivision which has both functions of its own and such as are delegated to it by the state. It is administered by a communal council whose membership varies from eighty for communes with over 250,000 inhabitants, to fifteen for those whose population is less than 3,000. The councillors are chosen by all male citizens over twenty-one years of age, who can read and write and who can also show proofs either of intellectual proficiency (certificate of graduation from a primary school), or of a minimum of financial solvency (payment of some governmental tax or of a communal tax of five lire at least)[1]. The term of office is six years, one half of the body retiring every three years. Its functions are purely deliberative, the executive power being vested in the: 1. «Municipal Giunta», nominated from among the councilmen (maximum – ten assessors and four substitutes for the large communes, minimum – two assessors in the small communes); and 2. «Sindaco» (mayor), head of the commune, representative of the central government in the discharge of some of its functions, as the keeping of registry lists and the maintenance of public security. The syndic used to be appointed by the king or by the central government from among the members of the council; but the interference of the government is now only nominal, as the syndic is normally chosen by the members of the council from their own number.

 

 

Municipal functions: The activity of the Italian municipalities is almost nil in the field of law proper; the state takes upon itself the administration of justice, police and public defense; the municipalities have in their hands merely the administration of measures pertaining to local welfare and the regulation of some local industrial activities. In the purely social field, their activities are both vast and indeterminate. Among these are some of obligatory character, being imposed by state law, as the keeping of registry lists (stato civile), deaths, marriages, et cetera; medical service for the benefit of the poor; the construction of communal highways; water ways; elementary schools, and local police. But besides these functions obligatory by law, the municipalities voluntarily assume many activities relating to the material, intellectual and moral welfare of their citizens.

 

 

The scope of these functions is very wide, but the extent of local autonomy is not far reaching, for the state exercises constant oversight and control. The decision of the council and its «giunta» cannot be enforced unless sanctioned by the «prefetto» and the «sottoprefetto» (the chief executives of the province and district respectively), who have the right to annul them if they regard them as being contrary to law. In case a commune does not make the expenditures imposed by law, it may formally be compelled to do so by the provincial executive board (giunta provinciale amministrativa). The «prefetto» may also delegate a royal commissioner to expedite matters held in abeyance by fault of the communal authorities. Furthermore, whenever the council, the executive board (giunta) or the syndic, are guilty of serious breach of the law or persistently refuse to execute in full the demands of the law, the government has the power to dissolve the council and the board, and to depose the syndic, supplanting every elective authority by a special commissioner, who remains in power from three to six months and exercises all the power belonging to the syndic and the board, and undertakes also all measures of an urgent nature. Besides this control for the purpose of upholding the law, the state also exercises control with a view that the measures passed by the council be useful and conducive to those ends and purposes for which the laws have been passed. The state may go into the intrinsic merits of the measures, and has the power to prevent the local administration from wasting its resources, from overburdening the taxpayers and from contracting excessive debts. This control is vested in the provincial executive board (giunta provinciale amministrativa), made up of seven members, three of whom are functionaries of the central administration («prefetto» and councillors of the «prefettura»), and four are chosen by the provincial council. The sanction of the «giunta provinciale amministrativa» is indispensable in case the commune wishes: 1. to dispose of its real estate, bonds, stock or other income-bearing property; 2. to acquire stock of industrial corporations or to use its money for speculative investments; 3. to lease its property for a longer term than twelve years; 4. to establish tolls on highways or bridges; 5. to increase taxation in case of opposition by a number of taxpayers who pay one-twentieth or more of the direct imposts; 6. to pass expenditures which might tie up the budget for more than five years; 7. to pass ordinances relating to the use of municipal property, to the collection of municipal excises and taxes, and to the administration of markets and local police. Thus, many of the functions usually belonging to the American municipalities are exercised by the Italian provincial executive boards, which maintain a systematic control to prevent a violation of the law and to direct its proper administration.

 

 

Notwithstanding the apparent uniformity, there exist the greatest differences among the Italian municipalities due to varying size, local traditions and the historical aptitude for self-government. In order, therefore, to study the working of Italian cities, it is best to select a single city, one that may regarded as typical.

 

 

Padua – A representative Italian city: The city of Padua seems to meet the requirements better than any other. According to population (91,725), it stands equally distant from the rural towns and the largest cities such as Naples, Rome, Milan and Turin. It has time-honored historical traditions and boasts of having one of the most flourishing Italian universities. It is situated in the center of the Venetian region, where the principles of prudent administration have never been discarded either by the patricians of the Venetian Republic or by the Austrian functionaries. Industrially, it is in the center of one of the most progressive regions of the Peninsula. It is keenly alive to the importance of social functions and was one of the first Italian cities to municipalize its gas and water works.

 

 

Let us first glance at the annual budget, which reflects with great precision the constantly growing demands of the municipal community and the means used to meet these demands[2].

 

 

Revenues and expenditures are divided into two classes – ordinary and extraordinary. Under the former are included all revenues and expenditures which occur every year, although varying in extent. Under extraordinary, we find all those expenditures which might not have been made and which were defrayed either from unusual receipts from ordinary revenues or by using extraordinary means, as the contraction of loans or the sale of city property.

 

 

REVENUES:

 

 

ORDINARY REVENUES

 

1847

Lire

1868

Lire

1878

Lire

1888

Lire

1896

Lire

Revenue from city property

19,996

69,036

87,288

111,057

147,839

Miscellaneous receipts

10,598

13,931

18,634

26,090

290,371

Excises (Octroi) net revenue

177,837

239,415

701,978

923,569

919,611

Communal taxes

35,599

63,478

107,118

156,991

156,946

Share of the tax on personal property

—–

75,597

—–

25,181

—–

Municipal surtax on land and buildings (*)

142,142

643,282

464,700

506,654

620,301

Municipal franchise taxes

6,726

11,127

6,429

12,612

12,647

Sundry casual revenues of recurring character

—–

1,460

17,642

23,966

6,860

 

392,898

1,117,326

1,403,789

1,786,070

2,154,575

EXTRAORDINARY REVENUES

Alienation of city property and franchises

5,026

12,719

430

—–

2,320

Collection of outstanding debts

—–

—–

—–

—–

—–

Collection of sundry credits

649

18,878

23,078

3,000

7,400

Contraction of loans

—–

96,000

—–

400,000

439,000

Casual revenues

—–

5,475

1,081

1,553

290

Elimination of past year’s residual debts

—–

—–

3,074

10,059

9,294

 

5,675

133,072

27,663

414,612

454,304

Ordinary revenues

392,898

1,117,376

1,403,789

1,786,070

2,154,575

Extraordinary revenues

5,675

133,072

27,663

414,612

454,304

Total

398,573

1,250,448

1,431,452

2,200,682

2,608,879

(*) Taxes on houses and lands added to the government levy.

 

 

TABLE B – EXPENDITURES

 

 

ORDINARY EXPENDITURES

 

1847

Lire

1868

Lire

1878

Lire

1888

Lire

1896

Lire

Patrimonial charges and interest on city debts

7,501

18,641

53,618

60,360

75,521

Cost of city service

29,986

113,852

176,841

182,353

222,113

Local police and medical service

61,684

126,608

210,696

283,634

537,361

Public security and administration of justice

5,467

54,118

52,196

66,598

75,006

Public works

45,038

109,614

138,808

207,924

183,601

Public education

16,815

104,776

190,898

312,000

351,524

Religion

1,262

780

1,909

—–

—–

Charity

13,903

84,294

112,240

113,296

210,610

Miscellaneous outlays

10,270

65,120

66,969

59,541

55,358

National guard

—–

28,231

—–

—–

—–

 

191,926

706,034

1,004,175

1,285,706

1,711,094

EXTRAORDINARY EXPENDITURES

Patrimonial charges

4,460

23,867

—–

—–

5,673

Acquisition of real and repairs

—–

30,518

77,744

—–

9,588

Interest on debt and sinking fund

—–

209,026

32,843

129,445

387,957

Investment of capital

—–

1,010

6,500

—–

52,704

Cost of service

24,998

15,647

82,135

—–

5,574

Local police and medical service

16,620

19,529

30,000

100,995

375,151

Public security and administration of justice

1,382

1,683

—–

2,008

14,989

Public works

101,159

168,122

154,314

83,425

43,979

Public education

3,703

15,820

138,598

2,100

60,937

Religion

473

—–

17,000

—–

—–

Charity

49,200

14,635

—–

1,953

12,000

Sundry services

48,985

34,207

39,971

433,155

9,532

National guard

—–

33,739

—–

—–

—–

Elimination of past year’s residual credits

—–

—–

34

3,653

7,439

 

250,980

567,803

579,139

756,734

985,523

Ordinary expenditures

191,926

706,034

1,004,175

1,285,706

1,711,094

Extraordinary expenditures

250,980

567,803

579,139

756,734

985,523

Total

442,906

1,273,837

1,583,314

2,042,440

2,696,617

 

 

Graph A shows the growth and fluctuations of the more important sources of revenue from 1868 to 1896. Line 1 represents the receipts from communal taxes; line 2, revenue from city property; line 3, excise taxes; line 4, municipal surtax on land and buildings.

 

 

Graphs B and C show the fluctuations of the more important expenditures.

 

 

Line 1 (Graph B) represents the expenditures for patrimonial charges and interest on city debt; line 2, public works; line 3, police and medical service; line 4 (Graph C), public security and administration of justice; line 5, charity; line 6, public education.

 

 

In each case the figures are given in thousands of lire.

 

 

The preceding tables and diagrams clearly reveal the tendencies of municipal life in Padua; a few observations will suffice to emphasize the more important phenomena which might otherwise escape the attention of the American reader. The most important fact is the remarkable increase of the public revenues and expenditures, a tendency common to all states and local bodies. During the fifty years from 1847 to 1896 the ordinary expenditures have increased nine fold and the extraordinary four fold.

 

 

The growth of revenues is not uniform. The revenue from city property increased from 20,000 to 150,000 lire because of the increase of communal property in the form of land and buildings, bridges, water works, et cetera, notwithstanding the continuous alienation of real estate. «Sundry revenues» remained stationary up to 1892, the increase beginning with this year being due to receipts from water works which were taken over by the municipality during that year.

 

 

Municipal taxation: The indirect tax on consumption («excises») after deducting the cost of collection and the part due the central government, kept on increasing up to 1888 and has remained stationary since. This tax furnished the municipal budget with the most conspicuous and the most elastic part of the revenue. The curve of this tax oscillates in accordance with the general property of the country. Whenever the harvest of wine is abundant, greater quantities of wine are brought to the city, and the revenue increases. Whenever there is danger of a deficiency in the municipal budget, the administration is very willing to raise the rates of this tax, for it is paid piecemeal in form of higher food prices and does not suddenly shock the taxpayers. Notwithstanding its unjust character, for it weighs more heavily upon the poor than upon the rich, the tax on consumption exists in all Italian municipalities, and there is no hope of its speedy abolition.

 

 

In 1847 there were the following municipal direct taxes; personal tax, a tax on trade and commerce, police tax, tax on slaughtered animals and a tax for the privilege of occupying public ground. Since political unification, there have been the following direct taxes: tax on the occupation of public ground (squares and avenues), tax on slaughtered animals, dog tax, license tax on establishments subject to public surveillance, tax on private vehicles and domestic servants, a tax on house rents (valore locativo), and more recently there have been introduced a tax on industrial establishments and retail stores, and a school tax. The growing wealth, as well as the increased number of taxes, explains the growth in receipts. The fact that these taxes have but little elasticity and are badly apportioned among the various social classes, explains the tendency of the income in later years to become stationary.

 

 

Next in importance to the excise taxes is the «communal surtax» on land and buildings, the state having granted the right to the communes to add «additional centesimi» to the state levy. At first it allowed the communes to share also in the proceeds of the tax on personal property, but since 1894, owing to its own financial difficulties, it appropriates the entire revenue from this source. As regards the additional tax on lands and buildings (immovable wealth), it is interesting to note that it increased from 142,000 to 643,000 lire during the period 1847-1868, decreased very greatly in 1870, maintained a constant figure from 1872 to 1891 (about 500,000 lire), and then rose again after 1893 to about 620,000 lire in 1896, at which figure it stands. The explanation of this phenomenon is not difficult. The propertied classes, which, by the way, are heavily taxed through state and local imposts (amounting from twenty to thirty-four per cent of the land rents and from twenty to forty per cent of the house rents), try to shift upon others the burden of the increasing outlays which the greater part of them find very hard to bear. Since the communes have been deprived of the right to tax industrial, commercial and professional incomes, these classes have made use of the power in their hands to transfer the tax burden to the masses in form of excise taxes.

 

 

Growth of municipal activity: Of the rapidly increasing expenditures, the most striking items are those for medical and sanitary service, popular education, public works and charities, both in the ordinary and extraordinary parts of the budget. In order to show to what extent the municipality of Padua has contracted loans for productive or profitable purposes, one only need compare resources and liabilities in the years 1868 and 1896.

 

 

 

1868

1896

RESOURCES

Lire

Lire

Real estate owned by the city

1,041,296

3,101,611

Municipal gas plant

642,007

Municipal water works

2,913,246

Rents from franchise concessions

8,657

6,944

Perpetual rents due the city

38,441

4,474

Public securities

166,100

1,162

Claims whose collection was uncertain

528,371

269,408

Balances carried over from the preceding year

499,912

623.375

Furniture, books, objects of art, etc.

600,107

1,221,367

Total

2,882,884

8,783,594

LIABILITIES

 

Rents and perpetual legacies

76,445

163,045

Loans

90,006

3,710,596

Obligations on which no interest is paid

53,985

794,004

Obligations whose payment is doubtful

89,198

34,763

Life annuities

800

Aid to private charitable institutions

210,000

Balances from the preceding year

523,353

498,307

Total

832,987

5,411,515

Net assets

2,049,896

3,372,078

Property of special institutions administered by the municipality

1,556

951,607

Total of communal assets

2,051,452

4,323,685

 

 

Although the increase of liabilities amounting to 4,600,000 lire for the period in question was remarkable, the assets increased still more. The city of Padua may truly rejoice over the results achieved, the more so because all necessary measures have been taken to prevent the monopoly services from passing into private hands instead of remaining in the hands of the municipality, which even now derives considerable revenue from its water works and gas plant. After the expiration of the present franchise, the tramways will also become the absolute property of the commune.

 

 

The city’s health: The origin of the health office (Ufficio D’Igiene) dates back to the year 1485, when the Venetian senate ordered the institution of a sanitary office (Magistrato di Sanità). After having undergone repeated changes, the health office is at present composed of three secretaries and executive officials; a professional staff of thirty-two physicians, midwives, experienced chemists and veterinary surgeons; forty-nine persons connected with the cemeteries, isolation hospitals and disinfection plant; besides a number of casual employees. The yearly pay roll amounts to 82,371 lire. The principal functions of this office have to do with the giving of medical aid, preventive measures against the spread of contagious diseases, food inspection, mortuary service, i.e., a system of sanitary regulation for cemeteries and funerals, inspection of food and beverages, examination as to the salubrity of habitations and soil, the care and killing of dogs afflicted with hydrophobia or abandoned by their owners, public swimming baths, and statistical and scientific publications. The last financial statement shows the ordinary expenses to be about 145,000 lire, which amount does not include the salaries paid to the administrative staff, nor a yearly grant of about 100,000 lire for the maintenance of a hospital for the poor. In addition, there is an isolation hospital, a plant for the disinfection of clothing, a cemetery valued at 1,544,000 lire, having an area of 126,000 square meters, a crematory, several smaller cemeteries, and one exclusively for Hebrews.

 

 

All animals are killed in a municipal abattoir, and are examined before and after being slaughtered. There being no system of sewers, the municipality inspects all sanitary arrangements. The work of cleaning and sprinkling the streets and public squares is let to the Co-operative Association of Pavers and Sweepers (Società Cooperativa di Lavoro fra Selciatori e Spazzaturai) at a payment yearly of 27,000 lire.

 

 

Public education: In 1866, when the Venetian provinces became united with Italy, Padua contained 54,718 inhabitants; 38,959 lived in the city proper and 15,759 in the suburbs. For all this population there were but three city primary schools for boys, with three classes each, and 12 more rural schools also for boys only. The entire number of matriculated pupils was 1,089. Next above these primary schools were two royal grammar schools, one for boys, the other for girls. Padua, a center of learning and full of learned and intellectual men who regarded popular instruction the first element of national strength, could not leave elementary education in such a miserable state. Very soon, therefore, the municipality extended and improved the system, increasing the number of day schools for boys, opening new schools for girls and providing evening schools for adults, a popular library, a school of design, modeling and sculpture for artisans, and a high school for girls. The municipality also contributes to the maintenance of state educational institutions, as the normal school, the technical school and institute, the musical institute, a silk-worm station, the University, the philological circle and the first stenographical society; and wholly supports a very important museum. The best proof of interest in education is the continuous growth of the annual expenditures, which amounted to 25,400 lire ($ 5,100) in 1865/66 and reached 453,000 lire ($ 91,000) in 1897.

 

 

Charities: The city of Padua has always had a number of well endowed, at times even richly endowed, charities. Venerable relics of ancient institutions and conspicuous foundation offer splendid testimony to the charitable purposes of our forefathers. A new era opened with the year 1866, for whereas in the past, charitable work had been nearly always undertaken and directed by the church authorities, beginning with this year, a new spirit, imperious and sometimes impetuous, pervaded this as many other fields. Institutions were founded and directed independently of any ecclesiastical authority. The municipality, spurred on by public opinion, entered this new field of activity. And now it draws every year upon its treasury for the benefit of existing institutions, particularly the hospitals for the sick and the houses of industry (Casa d’industria), the latter having become the asylum for hundreds of weak and invalid persons. The following table shows the increase both of resources and yearly income of all charitable institutions.

 

 

The eleemosynary institutions are autonomous corporations (enti morali), subject to state authority only in matters of the utmost importance and to communal supervision in as much as the municipality, by contributing towards the cost of their maintenance, has the right to superintend their activity and to appoint some of their executive officers.

 

 

 

VALUE OF PROPERTY

YEARLY REVENUE

1866

lire

1897

lire

From Property

Outside Contributions

1866

lire

1897

lire

1866

lire

1897

lire

Asylums and hospitals

5,102,895

8,064,723

282,751

407,533

285,728

342,904

Educational institutions

1,737,713

3,701,499

97,368

214,784

77,255

136,836

Eleemosinary institutions

1,499,799

3,355,177

145,105

188,646

4,942

55,427

Total

8,340,407

15,121,399

525,224

810,963

367,925

535,167

 

 

The more important institutions are an asylum for foundlings, a civil hospital, house of retreat, house of industry, free tenements, asylum for mendicants, public night lodging-house, an asylum for seamen, home for incurables and workmen’s homes. Among institutions devoted to education, the following deserve special mention: foundation for poor University students, a conservatory and college for girls, institutions for the blind, infant asylums, institutions for the Hebrews, schools of correction, institution for orphans and helpless children, asylum for blind women and one for abandoned children. Under the head of eleemosynary institutions come the pawn shops, alms associations, cheap kitchens and numerous smaller institutions. The commune has always subsidized these three forms of charity, particularly those of the first group, which treat the poor, the sick and the chronic invalids. The greater part of the cost of maintaining the civil hospital is also borne by the city.

 

 

Water supply: In 1884, a commission appointed some years previous recommended that the supply of water from artesian and common wells be discontinued, as well as that drawn from the Bacchiglione and Brenta rivers, for the reason that at times it was unfit for drinking purposes and easily contaminated, and proposed the supply be derived from the mountain springs of Oliero, Camisino, Fontaniva and Dueville. After long negotiations the communal council granted a franchise for sixty years to the «Società Veneta per Imprese e Costruzioni Pubbliche» (Venice Company for Public Enterprises and Constructions), which agreed to furnish the city with water from the Dueville springs, and in case their supply was insufficient, from the Camisino springs. This company, besides undertaking to furnish the water supply for Padua, intended also to supply water to the cities of Vicenza and Venice, and constructed an aqueduct of sufficient proportions to convey about 30,000 cubic meters per day. The aqueduct was put into operation June 15th, 1888, the water being charged for at the rate of twenty-five centesimi per cubic meter, besides a fee for the rent of the water meter itself. Owing either to old prejudices, to the excessive price of the water or to the high cost of house connections, the extension of the system was slow, and complaints were heard of the lack of gratuitous public fountains. In order, therefore, to extend the use of water, the municipality availed itself of the financial embarrassments in which the company soon found itself, and in 1891 purchased the aqueduct at the price of 2,100,000 lire ($ 420,000), acquiring absolute ownership of the entire aqueduct and the springs situated on the slope of the Prealps. Soon after, the municipality completed the water mains for the entire city, finished the construction of the central pumping station, placed 108 fountains about the city, decided that the cost of connections should be borne by the aqueduct office, abolished the rent charge for water meters, and lowered the water rates by fixing the price at 2.5 lire (50 cents) per month for 400 liters daily and at 16 centesimi (3 cents) per cubic meter for all water used above the normal quantity by individual consumers. Not content with these improvements, the communal council resolved in 1895 to extend the system to the suburbs and reduce the rates. These improvements produced the desired results; the use of water greatly increased, as is shown by the following table:

 

 

SERVICE IN THE HANDS OF

31st DECEMBER OF THE YEAR

NUMBER OF PARTIES GETTING WATER

City

Suburbs

Total

Venice Company

1888

188

188

1889

430

430

1890

599

599

1891

890

890

Municipality of Padua

1892

1,079

1,079

1893

1,633

1,633

1894

1,977

1,977

1895

2,269

45

2,314

1896

2,540

113

2,653

1897

2,817

173

2,990

 

 

Furthermore the number of fire hydrants belonging to private parties increased from 14 in 1863 to 31 in 1897.

 

 

Not less important have been the sanitary effects of the improved water supply, as is shown in table on page 230.

 

 

PERIODS

YEARS

AVERAGE GENERAL DEATH RATE PER 1,000 INHABITANTS

MORTALITY FROM TYPHOID FEVER ABSOLUTE FIGURES

Per Year

Average for 3 Years

Per Year

Average for 3 Years

I. Period (before the introduction of the improved water supply)
1885
1886
1887

 

26.72
36.16
25.98

 

 
29.62
 

 

77
79
45

 

 
67
 

 

II. Period (improved water supply furnished by a private corporation)
1890
1891
1892

 

25.07
27.17
26.90

 

 
26.38
 

 

39
27
27

 

 
31
 

 

III. Period (service in the hands of the municipality)
1893
1894
1895
1896

 

24.63
22.92
21.91
23.88

 

 
23.15
 
 

 

19
24
17
24 (*)

 

 
 
 
 

 

(*) Of the 24 persons who died from typhoid during 1896, there were 8 soldiers who were taken sick either in camps or soon after their arrival in Padua. The camp was situated in a locality where typhoid was epidemic.

 

 

The revenues from the water works are sufficient to pay: 1. the entire cost of service; 2. an annual amount of 20,000 lire ($ 4,000) towards paying off in twenty-five yearly payments a debt of 300,000 lire ($ 60,000) at 4.5 per cent, which debt was incurred to build the aqueduct for the suburbs; 3. and varying amounts towards increasing the special fund for the further extension of the system. Ever since the purchase of the aqueduct, there appear in the budget payments for a sinking fund and interest on a loan of nearly 2,400,000 lire ($ 480,000) made for the purchase and development of the water works. This expenditure will continue for twenty-five years, at the rate of 159,000 lire per annum. It may be said, therefore, that the water works imply an annual charge upon the city finances of $ 32,000; but it must be remembered that the payment for a public service by means of general taxation may be more just than payment by the individual consumers according to the amount they consume. For, given a good system of taxation, the citizens might be made to pay for their water, not at a uniform rate of so much per liter, but at varying rates which increase with the wealth of the consumer. The value of the public service would under these conditions not be fixed for all by the poorest consumer, but would be dependent upon the subjective valuation by each individual consumer of the utility derived from the public service. The price of water would be fixed not by the objective conditions of the market, but by the subjective valuation of the consumers, which varies according to the amount of wealth possessed. It must be further borne in mind that as against this annual charge of $ 32,000, which for twenty-five years will weigh upon the taxpaying community, the city of Padua derives the advantage, by no means inconsiderable, of the numerous public fountains and the all-important social benefit of a diminished death and sick rate. Whatever objections may be raised from the purely fiscal point of view, there can be no doubt that the administration of the water supply by the municipality has caused very beneficial results if regarded from the social standpoint.

 

 

Gas lighting: The municipality of Padua by an agreement of March 15th, 1845, granted the monopoly of furnishing the city with gas to the «Società Civile Lionese», which constructed gas works and laid mains. In 1867, the agreement was renewed for twenty-nine years, i.e., until September 30, 1897. The price of gas was fixed at 16.46 centesimi per cubic meter for public lighting, 17.28 centesimi for the city hall, 36 centesimi for charitable institutions and 38 centesimi per cubic meter for private consumers[3]. In 1887, the «Società Civile Lionese» sought to obtain an extension of the franchise for a term of twenty years, i.e., until 1917, offering as an inducement the immediate lowering of the price of gas to private consumers and for industrial uses to 28 centesimi per cubic meter, maintaining, however, the former rate for public lighting. Just as recently happened in Philadelphia, the offer caused quite a lively agitation, for many were eager to get an immediate reduction of rates, and did not care to wait ten years until 1897, when they would become perfectly free from any exaction. But the city council stood firm in guarding the permanent interests of the city, and twice refused in 1887 and 1890, the offer of the company, revealing an intention to take control of the works when the grant expired. In the contract with the «Società Civile Lionese», there had been inserted in favor of the city, a clause relating to the purchase of the plant and mains at the expiration of the term of franchise, but on the basis of industrial valuation. Fearing that the company might make use of these words («industrial valuation») to demand too much, the municipality gave notice to the company that it would be expected to remove the subsoil from its pipes by 1897, unless it would turn over its plant at a reasonable price. The company instead of being moderate in its demands asked the enormous amount of 825,535 lire. The municipality then caused an estimate to be made, and to bring the company to reasonable terms, resolved to build a new plant. The company, fearing that in 1897 it would have on its hands a plant that it might not be able to sell at all, took wiser counsel and agreed to transfer the entire plant to the city for 380,000 lire and to turn it over before the expiration of the franchise, i.e., August 1st, 1896, instead of September 30th, 1897, on being reimbursed for the loss of profits valued at 270,000 lire, making a total amount of 680,000 lire, payable in two parts on January 10th, 1897, and January 10th, 1898, without interest. The council resolved to accept, to spend 806,700 lire in fixing up and enlarging the plant so as to increase its capacity to 3,000,000 cubic meters, and to put in order and extend the mains. Up to Sept. 30th, 1897, the old rates were maintained and during the fourteen months prior to that date, the net profit for the city, after paying 270,000 lire to the company as reimbursement for the loss of profits, was about 20,000 lire. Although the rates remained unchanged, the consumption of gas increased, as is shown by the following data:

 

 

From Aug. 1, 1895, to July 31st, 1896 – plant owned and managed by the «Società Lionese» – rate 38 centesimi: Gas consumed by private persons, 902,955 cubic meters.

 

 

From Aug. 1, 1896, to July 31st, 1897 – works in the hands of the municipality – rates 38 centesimi: Gas consumed by private consumers, 965,696 cubic meters.

 

 

Increased under municipal ownership and management, 62,741 cubic meters.

 

 

Oct. 1, 1897, the rate to private consumers was reduced from 38 centesimi to 20 centesimi per cubic meter for lighting and heating purposes (this rate includes also a 2 centesimi tax for the benefit of the government), and to 18 centesimi for individual purposes. At once a notable increase took place.

 

 

Last quarter of 1896 (municipal management at 38 centesimi) …………………………………………………. 322,239 cubic meters
Last quarter of 189……7 (municipal management at 20 and 18 centesimi) …………………………………….. 431,951 cubic meters
Increase for the quarter with reduced rate …………….. 109,712 or about 34 per cent

 

 

The number of private consumers – 1,841 on Dec. 31, 1896 – jumped to 2,097 on Dec. 31, 1897. And this notable increase occurred at a period when the plant was being transformed, and during which, therefore, the administration could not give any active impulse to the development of gas consumption for domestic and heating uses. When the work now going on is completed, a further and continuous increase will surely follow. There is likewise no doubt that the cost of purchase and extension of the plant and pipes can be fully met in less than ten years from the profits. As soon as the amortisation of the debt is completed, the city will find itself in possession of the entire plant free from all encumbrance, and will then be in a position to diminish the rates to the consumer or even to lower the local taxes which now weigh upon the taxpayers. «Meanwhile, the city administration», to use the words of the syndic of Padua in his report of March 15th, 1898, «contents itself with the 35,000 lire actually saved out a total of 83,000 lire, formerly paid to the “Società Lionese” for public lighting. By freeing itself from the monopoly of a private concern, the city has achieved these most important advantages: It has brought considerable benefit to the private consumers; it is free to follow any progress in the field of public and private lighting; it can open a new source of profits for the city treasury which may be distributed for the benefit of the citizens instead of merely increasing, as before, the profits of private speculators».

 

 



[1] Wherever values are not given in United States money, five lire have been considered equivalent to $ 1.00.

[2] The data that follow have been taken from a large volume entitled «Le Comune di Padova, 1866-1897», exhibited at the National Exposition of Turin in 1898.

[3] 1,000 cubic feet = about 28.3 cubic meters.

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