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Smaller property tax bills will arrive a bit late this year in the Bay State

Property tax bills will not only be smaller but later than ever this year in Massachusetts. But in some instances, they won't be as small as they might have been.

This is all but assured in the wake of Proposition 2 1/2 -- the state's property tax cut initiative approved last November -- and in the wake of a slow response to its challenge on the part of state lawmakers.

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Despite apparent legislative afreement as to the amount of additional funds to give the cities and towns in fiscal 1982, which began July 1, there is no certainty Gov. Edward J. King will go along with it.

The Massachusetts chief executive has favored a local aid increase amounting to some $40 million less than what Senate and House conferees have all but settled on.

Mr. King, whose ratings in public opinion polls have continued to slide almost from the outset of his administration in January 1979, is concerned that giving cities and towns more than the $220 million originally favored by the House might force inreased state taxes. And this would not be to his political advantage, because next year he intends to seek reelection to a second four-year term. He already faces formidable opposition, including his predecessor Michael S. Dukakis, for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

Bickering over the extent of new local aid and how to come up with the money to pay for it has deadlocked House and Senate conferees for nearly two weeks, blocking passage of a fiscal 1982 state budget. The resulting payless paydays for some 80,000 state workers and retirees and 120,000 welfare recipients appeared to be nearing an end over the weekend as Senate and House conferees escalated efforts to resolve major differences in the budgets passed by their respective houses.

It is generally agreed the increased local aid will require a cut in the state's payroll. How many jobs and which ones should be eliminated has been a point of particular disagreement between the two legislative chambers.

Until the budget becomes law, municipal officials across the state will be kept guessing as to what to expect in the way of local aid. But even then there is no way local property tax rates can be set until the cities and towns receive official notification of what will be coming from the commonwealth during the current fiscal year, which runs through next June 30.

Providing such figures is a complex process because there are 351 separate cities and towns involved and a variety of aid distribution and state reinbursement formulas.

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Thus, it could be well into the fall before more than a few, if any, fiscal 1982 municipal property tax rates are set and approved by the state. For this reason, even with operating economies resulting from Proposition 2 1/2 -- slimmed local budgets, many cities and towns have little choice but to borrow perhaps larger sums and at larger inte rest rates in short-term loans to pay their expenses.

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