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Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

Potsdam overrides 2 percent tax cap

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POTSDAM — The Town Council approved a local law Tuesday giving it the option to raise the town’s property taxes above the state-mandated 2 percent cap.

State law allows local communities to override the cap if it votes to do so with a super-majority. Last year the village’s property tax rate increase was below 2 percent, and it will likely not exceed that figure this year, according to Town Supervisor Marie C. Regan.

“It is not our intention, if at all possible, to override the 2 percent limit,” Ms. Regan said.

However, several assessment challenges have threatened Potsdam’s tax base.

The largest is Brookfield Power, which is challenging the town’s assessment of eight of its properties, a combined assessment of $15.8 million. If the company prevails in the challenge, it could mean a loss of several thousand dollars in tax revenue, according to Ms. Regan.

This could lead the town to raise property tax rates.

Ongoing contract negotiations with town employees, unexpectedly high medical insurance costs and retirement expenses were also cited as reasons for a possible increase.

The board held a public hearing on the new law before its meeting, but no members of the public made any comments.

In other business, the town chose Con Tech Building Systems Inc., Gouverneur, to complete renovations on the former town hall at 35 Market St.

Five companies bids were submitted for the project. Con Tech’s was the lowest, at $427,600.

Half of the cost of renovations will be covered by state grants.

Because the building is on the National Register of Historic Places, the town’s decision will need to be approved by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation before work can begin. The town’s plans have already been approved, so once final approval on the contractor is given construction can begin.

The renovations are expected to be complete in early January, at which point the town court will move back to 35 Market St.

In the meantime, the court will continue to meet in its temporary location at 12 Elm St. until Nov. 30, when the town hall will move to the new building on 18 Elm St. The court will meet in the new building’s community room until renovations on 35 Market St. are completed.

The board went into executive session during the meeting to discuss the lawsuits filed challenging the assessment of Brookfield Power’s properties and Lawrence Avenue Apartments, owned by Chason Affinity Inc., Buffalo. The town has hired Albany law firm Hacker Murphy LLP to defend the challenged assessments in court.

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