While the Duxbury Select Board doesn’t plan to finalize its budget until Thursday night, January 28, board members made budget progress at the board’s select board meeting this week.
At the January 25 meeting, the Duxbury Select Board discussed the new tandem dump truck it plans to purchase with voters’ permission; board members opted to buy a manual rather than an automatic. “There is a comforting factor in really controlling your engine,” said select board member Dan Schillhammer. “Having driven a standard for 20 years, I think the standard is the better way to go.”
Other select board members agreed, noting that it’s easier to lose control of a vehicle with an automatic transmission. Moreover, select board chair Kevin Garcia was adamant that a truck driver should know how to drive a standard.
Eventually, the board made a unanimous vote to purchase a dump truck with an 8LL manual transmission, provided that the voters approve this purchase.
The truck purchase is one of many articles that Duxbury residents will vote on via Australian ballot on Town Meeting Day. The full list of articles has yet to be finalized. At the meeting select board members worked on several budget line items.
One of the biggest line items in the town’s original budget draft was the $152,000 for fixing Scrabble Hill Road. However, at a meeting last week, the select board decided to slice this line item in half and postpone completing the project, bringing the budget down by $76,000.
This week select board members drained this line item even more. “We can reduce more from the re-stabilization of Scrabble Hill,” said Garcia. “That’s not going to happen this year due to financing. We just don’t have the money to do it, is the bottom line.”
That night, the select board decided to take $23,000 out of the already depleted Scrabble Hill Project fund, reducing the line item from the original $152,000 to $53,000.
The number $23,000 was decided after select board members remembered they had to pay a $23,000 match for a scoping study on Camel’s Hump Road. “We are committed to that match,” said Garcia.
This means despite reducing the Scrabble Hill Project by $23,000, the budget will stay the same, because the town is plugging $23,000 into the Camel’s Hump scoping study grant.
Having completed their trickiest financial decisions, it seemed that Duxbury Select Board members were ready to approve the budget. However, there is one more factor that the board wants to consider before budget finalization: employee compensation.
Last week, Duxbury’s road foreman, Ben Andrews, resigned. Now Duxbury is looking to hire a new road foreman and is reconsidering compensation for all members of Duxbury’s highway department. Garcia pointed out that some of the highway employee positions were “underfunded,” hovering around $40,000 a year for highway workers and just over $50,000 for the road foreman position.
While town manager Maureen Harvey explained that Duxbury gives its workers great benefits, including vacation days and a solid health care package, Garcia took a different stance on the employee compensation issue.
“Benefits are great, don’t get me wrong. Health insurance is great when you need it,” said Garcia. “But when a man goes home at the end of the day to buy groceries or to put gas in his truck, he needs something that will let his life operate on a daily basis. I can’t put health insurance in my truck.”
With that, Harvey suggested the board review its compensation package. “Do some homework, make some calls. Find out what your market is and what you’re competing against and make a judgment call.”
Select board members plan to make this judgment call on Thursday night, as they finalize the budget.