Selectmen Ken Goldstein wants Brookline out of Norfolk County.
“There is a basic inequity in the county system of government,” Goldstein said. “Municipalities in those counties are paying for legacy costs, pensions, which poorly serve the town. We are paying 16 percent of the total assessment in Norfolk County.”
That 16 percent equals about $700,000 annually, which is a lot considering that the Town of Brookline doesn’t use much of the county services.
In the 1990’s Massachusetts dissolved most of the counties within the Commonwealth and assumed the financial obligations and other functions. In total, 70 percent of the population lived in these now-erased counties, leaving 30 percent of residents, Brookline included, in what Goldstein believes is an archaic system of government.
As a result, Town Meeting has asked The Board of Selectmen to take this issue up with the legislature.
The timing for legislative action on this issue, Goldstein said, could not be better. “Norfolk County Government is dealing with a structural deficit as the plan for fiscal year 2014,” Goldstein said. Plymouth and Bristol counties are facing similar issues. “The heat is on, fiscally, for the counties and the legislature is going to have to act and do something.”
Goldstein said that he is looking for a permanent solution to these issues, as opposed to a quick influx of cash or other “Band-Aid solutions.”
In the fall, Town Meeting passed a petition to leave Norfolk County and be removed from their obligations.
Fred Lebow, Chairmen of the Advisory Committee, reached out to other communities to gather a consensus on the issue of the inequities within counties. “Plymouth County and Duke’s County are coming right behind us,” Lebow said.
“This is a snowball. While county government is very strong in other states, it has no business here. Governor Patrick wants to get rid of it. The Secretary of State wants to get rid of it. The impact is so minimal, you just don’t get what you pay for.”
“When we stated this, we thought it was in the best interest of Brookline, we don’t use the services and the cost goes up every year,” Advisory Committee member Bobbie Knable said. “What’s unreasonable is the continuation of the county system.“
The Board of Selectmen will have to look into all of the available information before they make a decision. What do you think? Should Brookline opt out of Norfolk County?