POTSDAM — The village's Dissolution Study Committee presented its first full options report in a joint meeting of the village Board of Trustees and Town Council on Wednesday evening, raising concerns about the benefits of the proposed dissolution.
The report featured recommendations about the best options for the continuation of various village services should residents vote for dissolution in November. The 15-member dissolution committee, which is composed of town and village representatives, will revise the report based on feedback from the boards and from community members next month.
"What we're showing you tonight is a draft," Committee Chairman Timothy M. Connolly said about the report. "It's still very much a work in progress, and that's important for everyone to understand."
Although the report is not a final or binding document, members of both boards voiced concerns that the dissolution could result in a $30,000 net increase in annual costs with a concomitant reduction in existing services. The state has offered the town $570,000 annually to dissolve the village through a Citizens Empowerment Tax Credit, but both boards were skeptical about receiving the credit in light of state budget cuts.
If adopted by elected officials after dissolution, the committee's recommended restructuring would see former village of Potsdam taxes dropping from $17.67 to $11.28 per $1,000, town-outside-village taxes rising from $3.20 to $7.78 per $1,000, and village of Norwood taxes rising from $16.34 to $20.39 per $1,000. The increase in the latter two tax rates would be used to offset the net increase in town costs associated with dissolution and would make the village of Norwood the highest-taxed municipality in the county.
The report says village of Norwood taxes and town-outside-village taxes both would rise to accommodate the greater town costs associated with dissolution.
"There are a multitude of possible options," Mr. Connolly said. "It's complicated by the dissimilarity of villages and towns under New York state law, and we're coming across quite a lot of 'round pegs, square holes' as we move along."
The report also outlined ways for several town departments to absorb related village departments without reductions in staffing or building usage, but it showed that the continuation of law enforcement services might be problematic.
Because state legislation would be required to keep the village Police Department functioning as a special district after dissolution, the committee recommended that a townwide police department be created. Such a move would require the department to spend an additional $1.7 million to double its manpower while spreading its patrols thin.
The Town Council also expressed concern over a proposition that the village would transfer its $3.3 million debt from the unfinished West Dam hydroelectric project to the town upon dissolution. Because the dam is not yet operating, town Supervisor Marie C. Regan recommended that residents within the village borders maintain the debt and use future revenue from the dam to repay it.
"This board is adamant that it (the debt) would be difficult to absorb," Mrs. Regan said.
Members of both boards urged the public to attend the June 8 meeting, which will be held at 6 p.m. in the A.A. Kingston Middle School cafeteria on Lawrence Avenue.