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Changes mulled for school eligibility of homes on Brookline line

Posted by Brock Parker  November 22, 2013 12:28 PM

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School officials in Brookline are considering a policy change that could prohibit some people whose homes straddle the town line from sending their children to Brookline public schools.

But Scott Gladstone, a Town Meeting member for Brookline’s 16th Precinct in South Brookline, said the policy change could hurt the property values of some of his constituents who purchased their homes with the understanding that the property was part of the town’s school district.

“I do not think it is fair,” Gladstone said.

The proposed changes are based on a combination of property tax payments and voter eligibility in the town and could affect a few households that sit partially in Brookline and partially in Boston neighborhoods or Newton, said School Committee member Rebecca Stone.

Children living in the properties and currently attending Brookline schools would not be affected by the proposed changes. However, the move could impact the value of homes because Stone said they could no longer be marketed as part of the Brookline school district when sold or rented anew.

Stone chairs a policy review subcommittee that will hold a public hearing on the proposed changes Monday, Nov. 25, at 7 p.m. on the 5th floor of Brookline Town Hall.

Changes to the school district’s admissions policy are being considered as Brookline attempts to address overcrowding caused by surging enrollment in the public schools. Town officials are considering putting a property tax override before voters in 2014 to fund multiple school expansion projects that could cost between $150--$300 million, according to early estimates.

Stone said the proposal to change the admission policy for properties on the town boundaries is in an early stage, but must be looked at before voters are asked to pay more in taxes.

“We have to look at it from every angle before we make the case to the Brookline community that we need to build for ‘x’ number” of dollars, said Stone. “We have to be as diligent as possible to make sure that everybody who is attending has a right to be there.”

Under current rules, anyone living on the town line in a home built before June of 2005 can send their children to the town’s public schools. Anyone living in a home on the town line built or altered after a new policy was enacted in June of 2005 can send their children to Brookline schools if the town assesses property taxes on at least 50 percent of their property, according to a hearing notice sent out by the school district about the policy.

The new policy would make all properties, regardless of when they were built or altered, subject to the rule that at least 50 percent of the property must be assessed for Brookline property taxes in order for children living in the home to attend Brookline schools.

“The concern of the town is that properties that are minimally in Brookline are not paying property taxes to Brookline, and those property taxes substantially support the public schools,” said Stone.

Stone said the new policy being considered would carry an additional requirement that the Town Clerk must determine that the adult in the home is eligible to register to vote in Brookline based on the property’s location.
Stone said if the adults of a home would not be eligible to vote in Brookline based on their residence, than they would be disqualified from sending children to Brookline schools.

Town Clerk Patrick Ward said his office follows state requirements determining if the residents of a home on the town line are eligible to vote in Brookline. The determination is based on the location of where the resident spends the most time in the home, which is considered the resident’s bedroom, he said.

Gladstone said he can appreciate the crisis Brookline is facing with having more school-age children than it can afford to educate.

“But to hold down the student population on the backs of people who in good faith bought their property based on the gold standard that they will be able to send their kids to Brookline schools and pay the taxes on the portion of their property that is in Brookline, I think, is very unfair and bad policy,” Gladstone said.

Stone said that right now, there are homes at 32 addresses, some with multiple units, that sit on the town line with Boston or Newton. She said there are about 50 students in Brookline public schools living in homes that are intersected by the town line. Some of the homes at those properties would continue to qualify for admission to Brookline schools, but Stone said a few would not if the proposed policy is adopted.

Stone said the subcommittee is hoping to send its recommendation on the changes to the full school committee in December for consideration.

--Brock Parker can be reached at brock.globe@gmail.com

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