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By Lisa Loomis
Duxbury voters are petitioning to rescind an article approved at a special Town Meeting May 10 that authorized the town to borrow $70,000 a year for five years for town debt.
The petition, which appeared around town last week, will be provided to the select board at the board's June 9 meeting. It reads:
"We the undersigned legal voters of the Town of Duxbury hereby request that the Selectboard call a special meeting to have the voters consider the following article:
Shall the Town of Duxbury rescind the action taken at the May 10, 2014 special meeting whereby the voters authorized the Town of Duxbury to appropriate the sum of $70,000 to be applied to the outstanding debt of the town."
Petitioners then provided the paragraphs that the town included in the booklet prepared for its special Town Meeting on May 10, which lay out the town's contention 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.
Yacavoni attended the May 10 special Town Meeting, but he was not allowed to speak. Members of the select board objected to him speaking and when voters' voted by raising their hands on whether or not he could speak, he did not receive two-thirds of the vote required for a nonresident to speak.
After the meeting Yacavoni said that Charland's statement (at the meeting) demonstrated a lack of understanding of basic accounting principles.
"When he was explaining the balance sheet, he stated that 'assets equal liabilities.' What the heck? If assets equal liabilities, i.e., what you have is what you owe, you would never have anything. Assets minus liabilities equals equity – that is what is presented on a balance sheet," Yacavoni said.
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.
"The purpose of the rescission petition is to give the taxpayers an opportunity to have a special Town Meeting where all sides of the debate regarding the financial condition of the town can be considered. It's unfortunate that Bill Yacavoni, who has audited the books of the town of Duxbury for 16 years, was not given a chance to express his position on our finances, a position which is based on standard accounting rules and practices at the special Town Meeting on May 10. It is clear that there has been no maleficence in the way our books have been handled and we do not wish to engage in assigning blame or maligning anybody. Rather, the taxpayers of the town of Duxbury would like to hear from our former auditor and our current auditor regarding the present needs of the town. Accounting is an exact science and there is no place for demagoguery in this debate. Once the taxpayers are provided with all of the facts and positions regarding our financial needs, they will be able to vote again on Article 1 with a balanced view of the best way to proceed," said Dowsville road resident Chris Pierson, one of the creators of the petition.