Duxbury’s select board members were floored in November when they learned they had a $156,000 deficit in the 2019 budget. They considered many places to cut spending, even including their fire-protection contract with the Waterbury Fire Department.
A month later, when crafting the fiscal 2021 budget, the deficit loomed over the town’s finances. As of this week, the board has no solution, no final budget, and a 2020 budget — which ends June 30 — that is already in the red.
On Jan. 13, the board got a report from David Specht, town treasurer, distributed a report to the board showing line items in the budget that had already been exceeded, with half a year to go. Altogether, they’re $529,408 over budget. While the town hopes to receive $270,000 in flooding reimbursements, that leaves more than $259,000 in overspending.
Specht delivered the news after select board member Jerry McMahan addressed the board and people of Duxbury.
“We get frustrated,” he said. “But David is not solely to blame, it’s our fault too. We’re rookies and we’ve made some rookie mistakes with the last two budgets. Probably more me than you guys.
“If you remember, five or six years ago, where the board was basically at war with the town officials, I think we’re perilously close to that. I just hope we can patch it up and make some progress for the town.”
Specht’s report lists 17 line items running a deficit as of Jan. 13, from $60 in subcontracting to $299,100 for May 2019 flood damage repairs. The town expects to get $270,000 in flood reimbursements before the fiscal year ends, but that still leaves the town $29,100 short. The $25,550 for April flood damage will not be reimbursed, as FEMA and the state have denied grants to rebuild a storm-damaged culvert. Part-time road crew is over by $6,750, and the budget for the assistant to the select board, Jon DeLaBruere, is almost $1,300 over and climbing.
The deficit rose to $259,408 a week later, after the town wrote a check for repairs done after the November flood.
A big chunk of this spending is under “special roads,” which has $465,076 in expenditures and no money budgeted.
“That’s not going to be a pretty picture,” Specht said. “Come Town Meeting Day, like they did last year, someone’s going to say, ‘How are we going to budget?’ This year I’m going to say, ‘This is where we’re at.’”
He said he’ll need help from board members because he has just the numbers; they can explain what happened — and why correcting course will push up the town budget proposal for fiscal 2021.
Right now, the draft budget totals more than $1.3 million.
As of press time, the budget wasn’t finalized, nor were articles for the town meeting March 3. All articles have to be in by January 27 if they’re to be presented on Town Meeting Day.