By Rachel Goff
Town Meeting is a time-honored tradition that takes place every March throughout Vermont, but this year Duxbury decided to hold not one, not two, but three of them.
Duxbury will hold a special Town Meeting on Monday, July 28, asking residents to weigh in on 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." The meeting takes place at 7 p.m. at Crossett Brook Middle School.
The article resulted from a petition taxpayers circulated after the first special Town Meeting in May, at which Duxbury Select Board fielded questions from residents inquiring as to whether or not the town ended the year with $338,000 in debt. In May voters approved borrowing of $70,000 a year for five years to pay off the debt.
According to the select board, the town's $338,000 debt consists of a $228,000 line of credit and a $110,000 budget deficit. According to former town auditor Bill Yacavoni, however, the $228,000 line of credit is included in the 2013 budget deficit and Duxbury has only $110,000 in debt—or even less because the town received a refund of $40,000 from Washington West Supervisory Union.
After sustaining large amounts of damage due to flooding from the storm, Duxbury took out a $1.5 million line of credit with Merchants Bank to pay for repairs to town roads and bridges until it was reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA).
In the end, Duxbury received $1.7 million from FEMA—even more than it had expected—but as the reimbursement checks came in they were used to pay for the town's operating expenses rather than repaying the line of credit, which currently stands at $228,000.
In addition to failing to use FEMA funds for repaying the line of credit, the board also overspent its budget by $110,000 in 2013, which includes a $40,000 deficit carried over from 2012.
The line of credit became due on June 30 and due to the petition asking voters to rescind the permission to borrow money, Duxbury paid off Merchants Bank with funds from Community National Bank in the amount of $230,371.04, to be paid back with an interest rate of 1.675 over five years. The select board accepted the refinancing plan at its meeting on June 24. The petition seeking to rescind the permission to borrow funds was submitted on June 6. Will Senning at the Vermont secretary of state's office elections divisions said that towns are advised to wait for the outcome of rescission votes before proceeding to spend or indebt the taxpayers.
"It is certainly not best practice to spend or borrow prior to the outcome of a rescission vote," Senning said.
At its meeting on July 14, the select board also moved to pay off its 2013 budget deficit with funds from Community National Bank in the amount of $110,344, to be paid back with an interest rate of 1.675 over five years. The amount of that deficit is also in question and former auditor Yacavoni said that the deficit is as low as $16,000 and that there is no reason to indebt taxpayers for five years over a sum so small.