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Editorial: County pension burden wrong

Under one umbrella — that’s the way the pensions for all county employees should work.

But for some reason in Massachusetts, there’s something of a side deal going on when it comes to retirees of the regional councils of government, including those in Franklin County.

Here and in a couple of other places, retirement costs are borne by the municipalities of the particular county. Elsewhere, employees in similar agencies are members of the state retirement system.

Franklin County residents have long felt that they are in an unequal relationship when it comes to the eastern part of the state. But this isn’t some perceived slight or difference based upon population numbers ... this situation is just wrong.

“Franklin County residents, among the poorest in Massachusetts, are not only paying FRCOG retirement costs directly through their local property taxes, but are also paying for retirement costs of all other RPAs and units of the (state system) through their income tax,” says Linda Dunlavy, the FRCOG’s executive director. “We believe the residents of Franklin County are being charged inequitably.”

What this has meant is that local taxpayers have been contributing some $250,000 a year via assessments to the county’s 26 communities. And, of course, that money comes on top of what the taxpayers of the county contribute for the county retirement system that covers school, town workers as well as the Franklin Regional Transit Authority and the Solid Waste Management District.

We don’t think it’s necessary to delve into how this unequal situation was allowed to develop to begin with, though it’s safe to say that it may be just another aspect of the unfinished state business of getting rid of county government, where Franklin County was the first to go in 1997. Seven more counties followed suit in the next three years or so and then the effort stopped.

Instead, we’ll look to the future, where legislation filed by state Rep. Stephen Kulick of Worthington would right the wrong.

It’s a sensible change that is long overdue.

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