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Potsdam approves budget, recreation intact

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POTSDAM — The village board approved a $1.4 million budget Monday, two days before the May 1 deadline.

The 2013-14 budget, which passed 4-1, includes money to continue funding the townwide recreation program through May 31, 2014, despite reluctance from some board members. It includes a tax increase of 1.6 percent, bringing the tax rate to $15.09 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Trustee Eleanor F. Hopke was the only dissenting vote. The money allocated to recreation may not be necessary, she said, depending on the town’s efforts to create a taxing district to take the program from the village.

“There hasn’t been enough time for that information to come back,” she said.

The village board voted last month to stop funding the recreation program, which has long been split evenly between the town and village, by the end of 2013.

After a plea from the town board, citing legal difficulties in creating a separate taxing district for recreation, the budget was amended to continue funding for an extra year.

Ms. Hopke said the extension was unnecessary, and proposed putting the additional recreation money in a contingency budget, just in case the town could not find a solution before the end of the year.

“We reallocate money all the time,” she said.

Village Administrator David H. Fenton said this move would be misusing the contingency budget, which is to be used only for unexpected costs. With the deadline swiftly approaching, the board agreed to honor the village’s request.

Trustee Ruth F. Garner voted to approve the budget, but said the town was exaggerating its legal difficulties.

“It’s smoke and mirrors. They could have it done in five minutes; it wouldn’t take a year,” she said.

Mayor Stephen W. Yurgartis said he is glad to have the budget behind him. Despite the compromise over recreation, he said, the budget manages to keep costs down, with a spending increase of 3.2 percent over last year.

“It’s been a difficult budget year, but we’ve made progress,” he said.

The board amended last month’s recreation decision, and will now fund the program through 2014 if needed.

It also passed a resolution urging the town to work with the village to create an independent study committee to find solutions to the legal questions surrounding the recreation transition, to ensure the town’s takeover occurs as quickly as possible.

Ms. Hopke voted against both measures.

“What is the point of having a committee to talk this to death?” she asked.

The village budget takes effect June 1.

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