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Potsdam mayor calls for highway tax cut for village

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POTSDAM — Village Mayor Steven W. Yurgartis attended a Potsdam town board meeting this week to request lower highway taxes for village residents, but it is uncertain whether the board plans to take action on his suggestion.

Village residents pay $227,000 in highway taxes for equipment, as well as snow and brush removal, but only receive about $40,000 in services, according to figures gathered by Mr. Yurgartis.

“The current situation is lopsided and inequitable,” Mr. Yurgartis said.

If the mayor’s plan is adopted, village residents will not pay these portions of the highway tax budget. Instead, the village will pay the town directly for its services.

The town board is already well into its budget-planning process for 2013. Mr. Yurgartis recommended the board vote on his proposal at their next meeting, with any changes not to take effect until 2014.

The board was noncommittal, citing several reasons they would be hesitant to approve the plan.

Some board members argued snow removal on town roads benefits village residents. Mr. Yurgartis agreed, but added that this logic works both ways. Village residents pay to plow town roads, but town residents pay nothing to plow village streets.

“It is, of course, true that village residents use town roads, but it is equally true that town residents use village roads,” he said.

The town is responsible for the maintenance of 124 miles of roads; the village maintains 16.4 miles.

Board member Michael J. Zagrobelny said that while the highway budget may appear to unfairly benefit town residents, there are other budget items that favor the village.

“We share a lot of things within our budget that are paid for by both town money and village money,” he said.

The town board is unlikely to take any action on the proposed changes in the coming months, said Town Supervisor Marie C. Regan, adding the town is too busy with its other budget preparations to handle such a decision without gathering more data.

However, the village will receive about $300,000 in additional sales tax revenue from the town in 2013, thanks to a change in the way the tax is distributed.

“You’re not going to be getting totally what you want,” Mrs. Regan told Mr. Yurgartis, “but it is going to be a bit more fair.”

In other business, the renovation of the former town hall on 35 Market St. was delayed once again as workers discovered asbestos for a third time. Asbestos floor tiles were discovered in areas not checked in previous inspections of the building.

This means the building, which will house the town court, will not be completed on schedule.

The court will have to temporarily meet in the community room of the new town hall at 18 Elm St., slated for completion next month, until renovations are completed.

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