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Brookline may seek allies in its bid to secede from Norfolk County

Posted by Brock Parker  January 23, 2013 11:27 AM

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Brookline Selectmen are mulling whether to ask other municipalities to sign a resolution saying they will withdraw from Norfolk County if the state does not dissolve the remaining county governments throughout the state.

The board is reviewing the resolution and what the cost would be to mail it to each of the 27 other municipalities in Norfolk County in what would be the latest effort by Brookline to rid itself of what officials say is an unfair county tax.

Brookline has already filed a home rule petition with the state Legislature seeking to secede from Norfolk County after Brookline’s Town Meeting authorized the move in May 2012.

The town is seeking to rid itself of more than $700,000 it pays in taxes to the county each year based on property value assessments.

Brookline Selectmen Ken Goldstein, the town’s representative to a Norfolk County citizen advisory board, said Brookline has the highest property tax assessment in the county, but the town does not make much use of county services.

At the same time, Goldstein said most county governments have already been dissolved in Massachusetts, and communities in those counties, such as Newton in Middlesex County, do not pay county taxes.

Goldstein said there are a few other efforts underway at the state level seeking to address inequities in county government taxes. One bill would enable Norfolk County to retain a much larger portion of revenue collected through the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds rather than turning the money over to the state. The bill would eliminate or significantly reduce assessments to municipalities in the county.

The resolution Selectmen are considering sending to other municipalities in Norfolk County highlights the inequities in the county taxes and would ask the communities to say they are resolved to withdraw from the county.

Fred Lebow and Bobbie Knable, two members of Brookline’s Advisory Committee, drafted the resolution and asked Selectmen Tuesday night to have the town send the letter out to other communities in the county. Lebow and Knable argue that support for the resolution could sway the state to complete the process of dissolving the remaining county government systems.

“It doesn't make sense for the state to continue to operate this unbalanced and unfair system,” Knable said.

Selectmen chairwoman Betsy DeWitt said that before the board takes a vote to send the resolution to other communities, she wants to review it and assess the cost of mailing it out.

--brock.globe@gmail.com

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