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Connecticut gets counties again… sort of

Connecticut did away with county level government in the 1960s but now the U.S. Census Bureau is allowing Connecticut’s nine Councils of Governments (COGs) to function as county-equivalents, according to a press release by Gov. Ned Lamont.

Connecticut’s COGs are essentially councils of municipal leaders who meet for planning and development purposes, particularly when it comes to infrastructure, and allows those leaders to implement plans on a regional basis.

“In Connecticut, the nine COGs exist to address matters of mutual interest to their constituent cities and towns, with each member city and town represented by its highest elected official. They function as regional planning organizations, coordinating activities for their constituent cities and towns, and in that capacity can exercise a variety of responsibilities typically undertaken by counties in other states,” the Census Bureau wrote.

The number and geographic space of Connecticut’s COGs don’t exactly match up with Connecticut’s counties but for the federal government’s purposes, the distinctions were close enough.

Office of Policy and Management Secretary Jeff Beckham said the designation will not result in any significant changes for Connecticut municipalities, as the purpose of the designation has more to do with the gathering and dissemination of federal statistical data.

“There will be no significant impact on how state or local governments are run because of this change, however by ensuring that future census data and products are published along planning region boundaries, town leaders will be in a stronger position to coordinate regionally on matters such as procurement of goods and services, public safety, education, health, transportation, tourism, and other shared issues,” Beckham said in Lamont’s press release.

COGs do not have the ability to levy taxes the way counties in other states do, but they can collect dues from participating municipalities and can accept other forms of public and private funds.

Interestingly, according to the Census Bureau, COGs can administer a regional property tax if the member municipalities all agree to it. The Census Bureau cited this administrative ability as one of its reasons for approving the change.

“In this regard, as well as the ability to provide the variety of services listed below, Connecticut’s COGs and associated planning regions have the authority to carry out administrative functions that are typically found in county governments in other states,” the Census Bureau wrote.

“This is a positive change that will benefit all of Connecticut’s cities and towns to ensure that census data and products are provided in a way that more accurately reflects how the state functions today,” Governor Lamont said.

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Marc E. Fitch, Senior Investigative Reporter

Marc E. Fitch

Marc worked as an investigative reporter for Yankee Institute and was a 2014 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow. He previously worked in the field of mental health is the author of several books and novels, along with numerous freelance reporting jobs and publications. Marc has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Western Connecticut State University.

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