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In March, Duxbury approved a municipal tax rate of $0.478, up $0.16 from the last two years. But according to Duxbury Select Board chair Dick Charland, this increase, which can be largely attributed to cost of repairs after spring 2011 flooding and Tropical Storm Irene, is too much for taxpayers. “I feel like we have to make an adjustment,” Charland said at a public hearing this month.
The town has slated a special meeting on Wednesday, August 15, at 7 p.m. at Crossett Brook Middle School to discuss equalizing the tax rate and other financial issues with taxpayers. At the meeting, the select board will ask registered voters to approve several articles that would allow the town to take money from its Capital Reserve Fund and take out a loan to help pay for outstanding repairs and help stabilize the tax rate.
Specifically, Article 1 asks voters to approve the disbursement of funds not exceeding $35,000 from the Capital Reserve Fund to match the town’s Agency of Transportation grant and cover the town’s share of repairs to the Pollander Brook culvert and bridge 41 on Camel’s Hump Road.
Article 2 asks voters to approve the disbursement of $60,000 from the Capital Reserve Fund to repair erosion caused by the Winooski River on River Road.
Article 3 asks voters to approve the disbursement of funds not exceeding $75,000 from the Capital Reserve Fund to purchase a replacement for the town’s 2004 Chevy Silverado pickup truck.
And Article 4 asks voters to approve the town taking out a loan not exceeding $250,000 and for no longer than a five-year term that would help supplement the current budget and thus lower this year’s municipal tax rate.
Duxbury town clerk and treasurer Ken Scott has proposed an alternative plan that he argues would save the town from having to borrow money. Scott’s plan involves rescinding the town’s decision to add $90,000 to the Capital Reserve Fund for future projects and $52,500 into escrow for purchasing sand and gravel in the coming year.
According to Scott, forgoing these deposits would—with the help of an additional $29,500 from the state instead of taxes, which was approved in June—be enough to keep the tax rate from going up by more than $0.05.
The select board has discussed Scott’s alternative plan with the town’s auditor on several occasions, however, and it “does not take into consideration several variables that have and will impact the town's operation and fiscal planning,” Charland said in a letter to The Valley Reporter.
These variables include the town’s commitment to completing highway repairs and purchasing new road equipment this year (as accounted for in Articles 1, 2 and 3 of the select board’s proposed plan) as well as the inevitable—to-be-determined—cost of bringing the town’s gravel pit back into compliance with its original permit, after it was suspended following an illegal oil dump by former road foreman Steve Manosh on the site earlier this summer.
Essentially, “what we have committed and are proposing to commit to is approximately $200,000 in expenditures from the Capital Reserve budget,” Charland stated, “[and] we do not believe holding off this year's contribution is a wise choice.”
“We believe our proposed plan minimizes the impact on the town tax rate during these difficult economic times, is fiscally prudent and flexible allowing for earlier repayment if possible and provides a sound operating foundation as we move forward,” Charland said. “As we approach the meeting in August, we should have a much better idea of where we stand with regard to storm reimbursements.”