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What Leaving Norfolk Could Mean for Brookline

Tuesday's Warrant Article discussion ended with a vote for looking into leaving Norfolk County.

On Tuesday night, the , the Town Meeting Members heard testimony and questions about Article 21, asked the question: Should Brookline end its membership to Norfolk County and save $700,000? 

Apparently, yes. , Town Meeting Members answered the question with a vote of 158-20. They chose an amended version which gives the Selectmen power to form a delegation to look into ways to address the inequity between what Brookline pays in County Assessment tax, what other communities pay, and the services the Town gets in return.

Put more simply: The Selectmen will have people look into paying less. 

Norfolk County is made up of 28 other Massachusetts communities, none of which border Brookline directly. The $700,000 figure represents 13% of the County's funds, according to Advisory Committee member Michael Oates.

One of the questions for this delegation to explore is: given the $700,000 County Assessment, what does Brookline get out of the deal? One of the biggest benefits of Norfolk membership is the , with its prime location next to the .

During the , Police Chief Daniel O'Leary expressed concerns about the article: "If the Town votes to withdraw, and does, it leaves a big question on how we’ll conduct our business. If we lose the ability to have a court, it sets us back.”

O'Leary's concerns were echoed at the Town Hall meeting by others who work in Brookline's legal system, such as Town Meeting Member Rita McNally, of Precinct 2, who works for the County District Attorney's Office. 

McNally noted, "There's hard work behind the scenes that people don’t see. Sometimes you make a move, and then find out there’s an implosion."

She commented that the current presiding Judge Patricia Curtin once contacted the Probation Office and asked to call in all of the people involved with students and juvenile court. In all, McNally said 28 people from Brookline came in, representing 15 departments in and outside of the community.

Frank Farlow of Brookline Pax observed that the court has been "on the chopping block," listed on possible court closures before, and survived barely.

Farlow added, "retention of the court is definitely not assured."

Brookline also has access to the Norfolk Agricultural High School, located in Walpole. Although, only one student in the entire town attends: Aila Murphy of 30 Jamaica Road. 

Said Murphy, "I am currently the only Brookline student, but I believe it would be a match for a number of other students in Brookline"

She had spoken before the Selectmen a couple of weeks ago, and reiterated her story of membership in the FFA, formerly known as Future Farmers of America, which she credits with her ability to speak publicly, after competing and scoring well in public speaking competitions.

Because of the town's membership in Norfolk County, it also has access to County engineering. However, the town does not make much use of the County's resources because of Brookline's own , observed Oates.

County Commissioner Peter Collins said the County hopes to eliminate the assessments altogether. They are currently working with legislators to increase the county's share in fees coming from the Registry of Deeds, which could reduce the $700,000 number.

"If the county can increase its share, we may be able to eliminate the County Tax altogether," Collins explained.

While it may still be some time before the results come back, there may be a compromise to be reached. Lowering the $700,000 figure seems to be the goal of the Article, rather than secession from the County. 

Ernest A. Frey June 11, 2012 at 12:11 PM
The saving of $700,000 as the objective of the article is not realistic. Pensions, medical care and other human relations costs constitute the greater proportion of the current expense. Departing from the county will place a cap on the future costs of these expenses for Brookline, we shall still be liable for some payment to the Commonwealth for these already incurred expenses. My sense is that this might reduce our annual expense to about $500,000. This is reason enough for Brookline to withdraw, but we should look to the bigger picture as to how the County structure can be eliminated and its responsibilities transferred to the Commonwealth.

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