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Village of Potsdam campaigns as rec district vote draws near

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POTSDAM — Voters soon will decide whether the town’s recreation program is worth paying for.

A referendum on April 10 will determine whether to create a special taxing district, including all town property except the village of Norwood, to fund recreation.

The village of Potsdam has begun spreading information about the vote to try to persuade residents to approve the district.

The village will hold public hearings Monday and April 3 to share information about the referendum. Both meetings will take place at 7 p.m. in the second-floor meeting room of the village offices.

“It’s obviously pushing people to vote yes if they want to have a recreation program,” village Trustee Eleanor F. Hopke said.

The cost of the recreation program, which includes Pine Street Arena and the nearby beach, is currently split evenly between the town and village of Potsdam. The village board voted last year to drop support by 2015.

A new district would raise the taxes of those within the town by between 52 and 80 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Village of Potsdam taxes are expected to drop, although it is uncertain by how much.

Ms. Hopke said the special taxing district will be an improvement over the existing system.

“Everybody in the area should be paying the same rate, and by having the town run it everybody will be paying the same rate,” Ms. Hopke said.

Also, she said, the program will be run more efficiently by a single government.

The village is already working on its budget for 2014-15, which takes effect June 1.

If the referendum fails, voters should not expect the village to continue to support the program, according to Ms. Hopke.

“The village has voted not to continue funding, so I think it’s taking a huge risk,” she said.

Some opponents of the district see the risk as minor.

Tracey E. Haggett-Sloan, president of the Town of Potsdam Taxpayers Association, said she thinks the town should drop support for the program entirely, turning it over to a private entity.

“Why should it come down to the taxpayers?” she asked.

The association often opposes town actions that would lead to any tax increases.

The program does not do enough to raise money and defer the cost, she said. Without a clear vision, she said, it should be disbanded.

“I do feel there is a need for programs for children, but I think it needs to be better managed and should not be a burden on the taxpayers,” she said.

The vote will be held in the Town Hall, 18 Elm St. Only those who own property within the proposed district, which excludes the village of Norwood, will be allowed to vote.

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