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Potsdam approves homeowner tax breaks

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POTSDAM — The village of Potsdam Board of Trustees passed three of four proposed property tax breaks Monday, unanimously rejecting the fourth amid concerns that it would cause more problems than it is worth.

All four proposals were taken from a state-sanctioned list of allowed tax incentives, with the goal of bringing more permanent residents to Potsdam, a village heavily dominated by renters.

“All of the local laws that we’re considering here tonight are here to promote more home ownership in the village,” said Mayor Steven W. Yurgartis.

The following three incentives were all unanimously approved by the board:

n A five-year partial village property tax exemption for first-time home buyers purchasing newly-constructed homes. The exemption will start at 50 percent and drop by 10 percent a year.

nA 100 percent exemption for new buildings and major renovations that are environmentally-friendly enough to meet Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design Certification requirements. The full exemption will last three to six years, depending on the building’s level of certification. Once the full exemption expires, it will drop by 20 percent a year until the owner is paying full taxes.

n A permanent property tax exemption of 6 to 45 percent for people with disabilities and limited income. The size of the exemption will be based on the recipient’s income.

Each of these laws passed four to zero, with little discussion. Trustee Ruth Garner was absent.

Residents will be able to apply for these tax breaks as soon as they are approved by the state, a process that usually takes about a month.

The fourth proposal drew much more criticismand was eventually shot down. It would have provided a 100 percent property tax exemption for the addition of an apartment to a home to house the homeowner’s parent or grandparent. This exemption would cover only the value of the apartment, not the entire home, and would expire as soon as a parent or grandparent no longer is living there.

Several board members expressed worries that despite its noble intentions, the law would encourage the construction of apartments that would be rented out to others after its original occupants had died.

“It’s not as much what it is today, as what it could be tomorrow,” said Trustee Ronald Tischler.

Mr. Yurgartis agreed with this could be potentially problematic and decided to vote against the law.

“I think you’ve convinced me that this is a legitimate concern,” he said, adding that he wants to learn more about the possible ramifications of the law and may propose it again once he has more information.

Trustee Eleanor F. Hopke said she hopes the issue does not come up again.

“Either we’re going to subsidize the building of more multi-family housing or we’re not,” she said.

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