Lowell Deeds

The latest on real estate recordings and new technology from the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds in Lowell

April 15, 2008

Last Call for County Government?

by @ 3:33 pm. Filed under Current Events, History

An oped piece in this Sunday’s Globe by the sheriffs of Norfolk and Plymouth County signalled that the end of county government in Massachusetts is near. If you’re confused, don’t worry because you should be. Back in 1997, Middlesex County was abolished by act of the legislature in a type of fiscal mercy killing. Six other counties were also abolished. Here’s the first confusing part: They were abolished as governmental entities but remain as geographic boundaries, hence we still have the Middlesex County Registry of Probate, for example. (Middlesex is divided into two registry of deeds districts). The law that abolished these counties specified that others could remain in existence so long as they remained solvent. Because county government was and is funded primarily through the deeds excise tax, today’s poor real estate market is nudging the remaining counties towards the brink of insolvency it would appear. In a pre-emptive move, the sheriffs of the remaining counties hope the state takes them over and, like their counterparts already working for the Commonwealth, they remain as independently elected officials but receive their funding through the Department of Corrections. If the sheriffs go, that more or less eliminates the need for independent counties and offices such as the registries of deeds would be rolled into the Secretary of State’s Office with the rest of us. Because this effort involves the FY09 state budget, the outcome of this drama should be known fairly soon.

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