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Village tells town: You fund Potsdam Rec; We’re lowering our taxes

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POTSDAM — The struggle over Potsdam’s long-troubled joint recreation budget came to a head at a surprise vote Monday when the village board agreed to stop funding the recreation program by Dec. 31.

The recreation budget is divided evenly between the town and village of Potsdam. Both municipalities agreed in October to split the $321,000 cost, which would keep the program running from June 2013 through May 2014.

Now it looks like the village will be cutting off their share by the end of the year. Trustees voted 4-0 to end the village’s contribution to the fund. Trustee Ruth A. Garner was not present at the meeting. The town was not informed of the vote beforehand.

The resolution was included on an addendum to the meeting agenda, instead of being listed on the publically-available agenda that was distributed several days before the meeting.

Town Supervisor Marie C. Regan said town officials were blindsided by the decision. She did not know anything about the resolution until after the board had already voted on it.

“I find it incomprehensible that they would pass this resolution without once discussing it with us,” she said.

She is planning an emergency meeting of the Town Council, along with the town’s lawyer, to explore their options.

“They can do what they want, but that doesn’t mean we have to pick up the program. They had absolutely no conversation with the town about it,” she said.

The resolution also states that all village-owned property belonging to the recreation program will be rented or leased to the town for $1.

According to village Mayor Steven W. Yurgartis, the recreation program is available to all town residents, and should be paid for strictly through town taxes instead of split between two governing bodies.

“The recreation program is a townwide program, open equally to all town of Potsdam residents,” he said. “It stands to reason that it should be managed and funded as a townwide program.”

Most of the recreation budget money is used to run and maintain the Pine Street Arena, which is within village limits. Years ago the village was solely responsible for the arena, but made several requests to the town to take over an increasing percentage of the costs. Now, the town may be left footing the entire bill.

Village trustees said that by spreading the cost among all town residents will reduce costs for village taxpayers without putting an unreasonable burden on town residents living outside the village.

“It’ll be a minimal cost to all parties if we fund it townwide,” said trustee Ronald Tischler.

Village residents will still pay their portion of town taxes, part of which will be put toward the recreation program.

“We’re not abandoning the program,” Mr. Yurgartis said.

The money saved will be used to lower village property taxes, according to Mr. Yurgartis. The resolution will save the village about $68,000 in the 2013-2014 budget year, equating to a roughly two percent tax cut.

Once the first year is done the move will save the village about $170,000 annually, which could mean a six or seven percent tax cut for villagers.

If the town decides it is unwilling or unable to foot the larger bill, it could mean trouble for the recreation program.

“They don’t have to take it, but it would be the end of the recreation department if they didn’t,” Mr. Yurgartis said.

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