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The tax ax falling on Boston

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BOSTON -- With less than three weeks remaining before the new fiscal year begins, the latest estimate is that up to 1,200 Boston firefighters and police officers may be laid off in budgetary cutbacks due to Proposition 2 .

Overall the city work force, including all departments, could be cut by as much as 40 percent, from 8,650 to 5,190 personnel, according to preliminary budget figures.

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The property tax cutting measure approved by statewide voters last November is expected to trim about $100 million from municipal revenues. Under the version of the budget that just cleared the Massachusetts House, Boston would receive only about $30 million in additional local aid.

If the additional aid is split solely between the police and fire departments, officials said the potential layoffs could be reduced by half. About 650 police and 550 firefighters are due to be laid off.

'It's going to have a very, very severe impact on the way we respond to fires in this city,' Fire Commissioner George Paul said Tuesday. 'We may have to do something we've never done before -- and that's to create priorities for fire calls.

'The dispatchers are going to have to make judgments on whether they send apparatus to grass and rubbish fires,' he said.

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Samuel Tyler of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau said the cuts would mean reductions in the police budget from $71 million to $42 million and in the fire budget from $56.5 million to $33 million.

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