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Best practices?

Duxbury voters will head to a special Town Meeting next week on July 28 to decide whether to rescind action taken at a special Town Meeting in May.

In May, Duxbury voters authorized the town to borrow money for debt. Other voters in town petitioned to rescind that authorization with a legal and timely petition.

At issue is discordance between the select board, the townspeople, the town's former auditor, former treasurer, current auditor and current treasurer. Specifically the select board asserts that the town had $338,000 in debts, representing an unpaid line of credit of $228,000 – and what the town says is its 2013 deficit of $110,000.

Here is where the math gets fuzzy. The balance sheet that showed the 2013 deficit as $110,000 already includes the $228,000 as a liability. The town's former auditor says you don't add a liability back to the deficit when that liability is included in (and helped create) the deficit. The select board says it needs to borrow $338,000 to cover the deficit and the line of credit.

The sides don't agree and hence the petition for the revote on whether it is appropriate to borrow money (and accrue interest) that may not be necessary.

Here's one thing that is cleaner and clearer than the money issue. Voters authorized the borrowing of money in May. Voters petitioned to rescind that authorization in June. Best municipal practices would require that that money not get borrowed until the question of rescission has been answered.

But that is not what happened in Duxbury. In receipt of the petition and with full knowledge that there were legitimate questions over the amount of the deficit, the select board in June borrowed money from a new bank to pay its line of credit.

In July, the select board borrowed more money to cover the disputed deficit amount.

There are legitimate questions about the amount of the deficit. Why is the select board encumbering the taxpayers of Duxbury with more debt than may be needed? And why would the board fail to see the prudence of waiting until the rescission vote?

What if taxpayers rescind the May vote and the select board has to unborrow the money?

That is poor leadership.

—LAL

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