Updated April 14, 2014, 8:48 a.m.
By CRAIG FREILCH
POTSDAM -- Property owners in the Town of Potsdam have voted not to establish a tax district for the Potsdam recreation program, leaving the future of the program uncertain.
The vote was 464 opposed, 407 in favor. Thirty three affidavit votes, from those who believed they should be able to vote but whose names did not appear in the ledger of property owners, will be examined and will be certified and counted by Monday, according to Town Clerk Cindy Goliber, but she says those ballots, even if they all went in favor of the district, would not be enough to change the outcome.
"The people have spoken. Now it's up to the village whether they want to be adamant or go 50-50," said Town Supervisor Marie Regan.
The village Board of Trustees voted last year to cede control of the program -- and responsibility for raising money -- to the town for what had been a joint recreation program with a variety of summer activities and operations at the Pine Street Arena and the beaches at Sandstoner Park in the village and Postwood Park in Hannawa Falls.
“If the village doesn’t want it, we’ll still have our half of the money and we’ll do the best we can with it,” Regan said “but we won’t go any further because the people say they don’t want it.”.
The full recreation budget of around $380,000 remains for 2014, so the summer program will go ahead as it has this summer, with learn-to-swim and other programs for children including bus transportation.
“After that we go back to the drawing board to see what can be done,” Regan said.
Meanwhile, Regan said, “the arena doesn’t belong to us,” the town government, but belongs to the village, “so the village will have to decide what they want to do with that. All we own is Postwood.”
The idea of the recreation taxing district came about as a legal means for the town to raise funds for the program throughout the township, including the village of Potsdam, but without the participation of the Village of Norwood, part of the Town of Potsdam but which has had its own recreation program.
The office of the state comptroller ruled that only property owners would be able to vote in the permissive referendum, as opposed to the usual method of a tax vote by residents of a municipality. The vote then became a referendum by property owners on charging property taxes for the recreation program through the district, as opposed to through the regular town budget.
The $380,000 budget for this year includes money to fix a broken compressor at Pine Street Arena.