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Electoral boundries

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A special election being held next month in the town of Potsdam will unfairly exclude many people whose lives will be impacted by the outcome.

The April 10 election will determine if the town should move its recreational programs into a special district. This district would be its own taxing body and include all property in the town of Potsdam with the exception of the village of Norwood.

The town and village now split the costs of the recreation programs, including the ice arena and town beach. Norwood, however, will eliminate its support by 2015. The village would not be included in the boundaries of the new district, should it be created.

If the new district is approved, taxes in the town will be raised between 52 cents and 80 cents per every $1,000 of assessed valuation of a piece of property in the town. Members of the Town Board will be able to adjust the district’s levy each year without further referendums.

Town officials previously believed all eligible voters in the proposed district would be able to participate in the special election. But due to language in New York state’s Town Law, elections regarding special districts must be limited to people who own property — meaning those whose names are on the title. Potsdam officials have their hands tied in this situation; they must conduct the election in accordance with the Town Law.

There are some inconsistencies in eligibility here, according to the law. If a home has two names on the title, both individuals may vote. But corporations and partnerships in the town will only get one vote.

What if there are several names listed for these legal entities? Why would a home be given multiple votes but a corporation or partnership only one?

And what about adult residents who rent property or otherwise live with others who own homes? Why does the state law exclude them from this process?

Carrying out and paying for recreational programs will affect more people than just property owners. Renters may well see increases in their leases as a result of any property tax hike; they deserve a voice. State legislators should consider revising the state’s Town Law on special districts to ensure it’s fair for everyone.

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