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Potsdam works to answer voter eligibility questions before recreation referendum

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POTSDAM — As the vote to decide whether to create a special recreation taxing district approaches, there is still some uncertainty over exactly who legally can take part.

All residents of the proposed district over the age of 18 will be allowed to vote. The town is still trying to figure out whether those who own property within the proposed district but don’t reside there will be able to participate.

The vote will take place April 10.

The referendum will decide whether the town will create a special taxing district to support the recreation program. The district would include all town property except the village of Norwood.

It would raise property taxes of Potsdam by 52 to 80 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, starting in January. Town officials are still unsure about the exact financial impact on property owners because increased sales tax revenue could offset the cost.

The district was proposed last year after the village of Potsdam voted to drop financial support for recreation by the end of 2014. Village residents likely will see their village property taxes drop as a result of this decision regardless of the referendum’s outcome.

Originally town officials said the vote would not include all residents, only property owners within the district. This was based on information from the state comptroller’s office, which later was found to be false, according to Town Clerk Cindy L. Goliber.

The town is working with officials from the New York State Association of Towns to figure out whether only property owners will participate in the election.

“The town wants everyone who is eligible by law to vote,” Ms. Goliber said.

Once it’s decided, all those eligible will be able to participate, regardless of whether they are registered voters. Those who are not registered can fill out a special affidavit ballot. Workers with the St. Lawrence County Board of Elections will double-check the information provided on these ballots, making sure whoever turns them in is actually eligible before tallying the votes.

The last time Potsdam used affidavit ballots was in 2008, when voters ruled against allowing the town to borrow $3.2 million to build a new town hall. In that election, the special ballots made up only 62 of the 1,274 votes, with registered voters representing the vast majority of the turnout.

“We use the poll books as a basis for the election. That gives us a very good cross-section of voters who are already registered,” Ms. Goliber said.

The town will have all of the details sorted out, including polling times and voter eligibility, in time for its next board meeting March 11.

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