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Thursday, February 1, 2007

Newton mayor reverses position on tax hike

NEWTON

Facing a new report that says Newton must raise taxes to prevent a $100 million budget shortfall by 2012, Mayor David B. Cohen has switched his anti-override stance.

Cohen said this morning he would consider the use of an operational override if other alternatives are not sufficient to solve the deficit.

“I will adopt that recommendation, and we will look seriously at our revenues and our expenses to see whether an override is necessary to maintain the level of services I believe people in Newton have a right to expect,” Cohen said.

Cohen formed an 11-member blue ribbon commission last fall to determine what to do about the city’s finances in the future.

In its report released today, chair Paul Levy -- president and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston -- said Newton must raise property taxes through overrides as soon as possible and also demand larger payments from its tax-exempt colleges and universities.

The report also recommended that the city's aldermen relinquish to an outside independent board their role as zoning and permitting authorities on large developments to encourage more commercial development.

The report also called for turning over the city's underperforming pension fund to state managers, a recommendation Cohen said today he supports as well.

-- Connie Paige

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