By Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent

BROOKLINE (CBS) – When the colonists told the King of England to take a hike, it triggered the revolutionary war. Today their descendents are rising up against another form of government born in those years following the revolution.

More communities are saying they don’t want to be part of a county government anymore.

Brookline Selectman Ken Goldstein doesn’t look like a revolutionary… but county government in Massachusetts might make him one.

“Seven-hundred-thousand dollars, Brookline does not think that is a fair amount of money to pay Norfolk County?” I asked.

“Not for the services that are being provided at this point,” Goldstein responded.

Goldstein is leading the charge against what he says is unfair taxation.

Consider this: there are 28 cities and towns in Norfolk County, but Brookline pays 13 percent of the county tax. Selectman Goldstein says with the exception of the local county-owned courthouse, residents get very little in return.

For example – the Agriculture High School in Walpole is funded by Norfolk County. But Brookline only sends one student there — and the town of Dover — none.

Dan Matthews is the Director of Norfolk County.

“What do you think about the issues that Brookline is raising?” I asked him.

“Well I think that is a legitimate issue,” he responded.

He thinks Brookline might be paying too much, but those taxing formulas which are based on property values would have to be changed by state lawmakers, not him.

“Ideally we would like to reduce the county tax… yes,” Matthews said.

County governments were formed centuries ago in Massachusetts. But today actual hands-on county governments are an endangered species.

Since the late 1990s, eight of the 14 county governments were abolished.
County lines still exist, but the state has taken over expenses for things like courthouses and jails.

“Eight of the 14 county governments no longer exist… so why should the final 6?” I asked Matthews.

“Well, I think it comes back to the basic point that county government can provide regional services,” he responded.

WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve reports

But here is what really has Brookline residents steamed: as soon as you step over the line from Brookline to Newton you are now in Middlesex County and that county government no longer exists.

So, Newton residents no longer pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in county taxes, and that is good news for the city’s chief financial officer Maureen Lemieux.

Lemieux says life goes on in Newton without the county government. “Yes …life does.”

And Brookline residents think the same would happen there.

Some communities do receive more services from Norfolk County — for example 37 students from Quincy attend the Agricultural High School and Franklin sends another 22.


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