By CRAIG FREILICH
POTSDAM – Property owners in the Town of Potsdam will vote Thursday, April 10 to decide whether or not the town will set up a recreation tax district to raise funds for the recreation program.
But if the referendum fails, what happens to recreation?
“We’ll have something over the summer,” said Potsdam Town Supervisor Marie Regan. “After that, I don’t know.”
Voting in the permissive referendum will take place at Town Hall, 18 Elm St., from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Meanwhile village trustee Eleanor Hopke will host two information meetings on the matter for interested citizens.
Hopke reserved space in the Civic Center Monday, March 31 and Thursday, April 3 for the 7 p.m. meetings.
Voting will be done by owners of real property in the town, except in the village of Norwood. On advice from the state comptroller’s office, the town will allow people to vote if their names appear on the title of a parcel of real property. If more than one name appears, all may vote. If they own more than one piece of property, they will not get another vote. Partners in business who own a parcel of property may all vote.
Residents who don’t own property are not eligible to vote.
There will be no provision for absentee ballots.
If approved, the recreation program will start with a budget of no more than $380,000 for the first year. Subsequent budgets will be figured by the town council.
The formerly joint town-village recreation program will be administered by the town, as the village has pulled out of the arrangement.
The Village of Norwood, part of the Town of Potsdam, has had its own recreation program in tandem with Norwood-Norfolk Central School, so it will not be part of the new district or the restructured recreation program.
The vote will take place because Potsdam village trustees voted last year to stop funding the joint village-town recreation program, projected to cost $380,000 next year.
For years, the village and town have bickered over what each side believes is fair funding of Pine Street Arena, lifeguards at Postwood Park and Pine Street beaches, and the summer recreation and learn-to-swim programs for children, including bus transportation.
The ballot question set the first year’s budget allocation at no more than $380,000, roughly the operating cost of the program that had been split by the town and village in recent years.
That amount does not include money for any improvements to facilities such as Pine Street Arena.
But if the property owners they decide they don’t want to pay for recreation for town residents, what happens next summer?
“It may not be elaborate,” Supervisor Regan said. “It will depend on what we can cobble together.”
The money from that would come from what the town would ordinarily hand over to the village for their share of the program.
“If the vote goes against establishing the district, this year, instead of giving our half to the village, we won’t give it to them and do something over the summer with the money, though I don’t know what that would be.
“Maybe the village will reconsider” their abandonment of the program, Regan said.
“I can’t imagine the town without a recreation program.”