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By Lisa Loomis
The petition from Duxbury voters to rescind an article approved at a special Town Meeting last month has checked out with the requisite number of valid signatures required to force the select board to take action.
Town clerk Ken Scott said he received the petition last week and has attested to the signatures. The petition will be presented to the select board at its June 9 meeting. After voters last month authorized the town to borrow $70,000 a year for five years for town debt, a group of town voters challenged that decision as well as the select board's reasoning in proposing it.
The select board contends that it has $338,486 in outstanding debt, a claim that the town's former auditor disputes. At issue is the question of whether the town's budget deficit is $338,486 or $110,000, or even less because the town has received a refund from Washington West Supervisory Union of $40,000.
Duxbury had a line of credit with a bank to pay for flooding repairs in 2011. The town was properly reimbursed by FEMA for all its repairs and it repaid all but $228,000 of its line of credit. The 2013 end-of-the-year balance sheet includes that debt in its bottom line, showing the town ending the year at a deficit of $110,000.
Former town auditor Bill Yacavoni asserts that the $228,000 debt is included in the $110,000 deficit and select board chair Dick Charland insists that the debt must be added to the deficit – making the town $338,486 in debt. The select board asked voters to approve a plan to borrow $338,486 from a bank and repay it at a rate of $70,000 per year for five years.
Petitioners hope to give voters a chance to hear from Yacavoni as well as the town's new auditor, Bonnie Batchelder, before making a decision to borrow $338,486 and raise the tax rate for five years to pay it back.
Petitioners want town voters to be able to hear from Yacavoni, who audited Duxbury's books for 16 years, as well as the new auditor, Bonnie Batchelder, before making a decision to borrow $70,000 per year for five years.
Yacavoni has reiterated that the town's deficit and hence debt are $110,000, less $40,000 received back from Washington West, and he argues that the town does not need to indebt further. New town auditor, in an April interview with The Valley Reporter, said she gave the town several options for handling its 2013 deficit and its unpaid line of credit.
"They have a line of credit they need to pay and a deficit in their general fund balance. Both can be handled many ways. They can borrow and amortize the cost over time, repay it by the tax rate, but spread it out over time, or they could borrow a portion and immediately raise the tax rate, or increase the tax rate to cover the whole thing," Batchelder said in April.