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Potsdam rec decision will go to public vote

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POTSDAM — Residents will have the opportunity to decide whether they are willing to pay more to support the town recreation program.

If the town decides to create a special recreation taxing district, a public referendum will be held, the Town Council decided Thursday.

The district would consist of the entire town except the village of Norwood. District property owners would see their town taxes rise by an estimated 80 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2015, when the village hands off control of the recreation program to the town. Financial responsibility for the program is currently shared between both municipalities, but the village voted this year to drop support for the program.

Village taxes will decrease once the handoff is complete.

The town could legally create the special taxing district without a referendum. If that happened, residents could force a public vote by gathering 140 signatures on a petition. Instead of waiting to see whether such a petition would be successful, the board decided to make the referendum mandatory if the district is created.

Supervisor Marie C. Regan called the decision a time-saving measure. Board members hope to know the fate of the proposed district before the village begins its budget process in March.

“It might be that we wouldn’t get an answer about what they want or don’t want before the village begins the budget process,” she said.

Town board members approved the decision unanimously, supporting it both as a way to save time and a means to ensure those affected would have a say.

“I think it would be better for everybody,” said board member Rollin A. Beattie.

If the vote failed, it will cast the future of the recreation program in doubt, leaving the town unable to fund it by itself.

“Once they turn it down, there’s nowhere to go,” said town attorney Francis P. Cappello. Board members expressed their hope that the vote would pass, unsure whether the village would be willing to return to the original system of sharing the cost.

A failed vote would not necessarily prevent the town from taking over the land and assets belonging to the recreation program and currently maintained by the village, but without the funds to support it, any such move would be pointless, according to Mr. Cappello.

“Why would we accept the responsibility if we didn’t have enough money?” he said.

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