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Potsdam will limit rec district vote to property owners

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POTSDAM - Property owners - those whose names are on the title - will determine on April 10 if the town of Potsdam creates a recreation district in a move that would shift the funding mechanism for the program.The Potsdam town board has cleared up some previous uncertainty regarding who will be allowed to vote in the April 10 recreation district special vote.

Voting will be limited to property owners from the town of Potsdam that don’t live in the village of Norwood. Voting will be held from 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. April 10 at the Potsdam Town Hall.

“Here’s who can vote. Because it’s a special district, it’s property owners but if there’s two people living in the household and they’re both on the title - whether it’s joint tenants or tenants in common - they get to vote,” Town Attorney Francis P. Cappello told the town board this week.

“Corporations get one vote, partnerships get one vote.”

This is a reversal from what town officials said last month, when they assured that all residents of the proposed district would be able to vote.

The vote will decide whether to create a special taxing district including all town property except the village of Norwood. The cost of the recreation program, including the ice arena and town beach, is currently split between the village and town of Potsdam, but the village will drop its support by 2015.

The new district will need to raise $380,000 in its first year, meaning a town tax hike of between 52 and 80 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for those living in the district. The exact amount of the tax increase is uncertain, because the town does not yet know whether it will be able to use sales taxes to help cover some of the cost.

If approved, the town board will be able to adjust the levy to be raised by the district at will each year without further referendums.

Councilwoman Rosemaria Rivezzi shared her concerns with the details of the resolution before supporting it.

“I just want to go on public record with my discontent with the comptroller’s office and their handling of our request to look at this. I think a distinction needs to be made between the special district that we requested from the comptroller’s office, such as the proposed recreational district, and the special district such as a water and sewer district. The latter is a service linked to particular parcels of property within a district in a town that’ll receive water and sewer services,” Ms. Rivezzi said.

“On the contrary, the proposed recreational district would be a town-wide district with the exception of the village of Norwood that provides a service to anyone in the community regardless of if they are a property owner.

She said town officials had made an effort to respect the residents of Norwood who already support a recreational program by finding a way to exclude them from the town-wide recreational program.

“Had we not excluded them, we could simply have put recreation services in the general fund. To exclude them required the formation of a special district,” Ms. Rivezzi said.

“My biggest thing with this is why should a property owner who is not an elector have a greater say than an elector who resides in the community and is not a property owner? I have two tenants in my house who use that recreational facility, but because they don’t own a property they don’t get to vote on should our community have a recreational district,” she noted.

Mr. Cappello said the voting restrictions are a function of the town laws for special district. “A lady from the office of board of administration, what she said to me was that in the village of Potsdam, since there’s no special district, everybody gets to vote that’s an elector if they got that referendum,” Mr. Cappello said. “It’s different in the town. The town can only do it in accordance with town law.”

The resolution was passed unanimously by the board.

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