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Watkins votes to override state property tax cap

CORRECTION: The article entitled "Watkins Votes to Override Property Tax" in the Feb. 29, 2012 edition of the REVIEW&EXPRESS incorrectly stated that the vote on Local Law No. 1 of 2012 occurred after the board had gone into executive session. As reported, the board did inadvertently skip the item as it was listed on the agenda, however the public hearing on the law was ultimately held during the regular meeting and the vote took place prior to the executive session. The article also stated that no members of the public were in attendance, skate night employees were in attendance during the public hearing but for an unrelated matter. The final result of the public hearing was reported accurately, the board voted to allow for an override of the property tax cap in the 2012-2013 budget year. Mayor Mark Swinnerton and Trustees Scott Gibson and Kevin Smith voted in favor; Trustees Paul Clifford and Wayne Weber were absent and therefore did not participate in the vote.

   WATKINS GLEN—The Watkins Glen village board passed “a local law to override the tax levy limit,” at its regular meeting held on Tuesday, Feb. 21. This means that the village has the ability to raise taxes beyond the property tax cap that became effective in New York State in June 2011. The board stressed that this action does not necessarily mean taxes will exceed the tax cap, only that the village has the ability should the need arise.
    Local Law No. 1 of Year 2012 authorizes the village to “adopt a budget for the fiscal year commencing June 1, 2012 that requires a real property tax levy in excess of the amount otherwise prescribed in General Municipal Law §3-c.” The vote followed a public hearing on the matter at which no member of the public commented. The law is based on subdivision 5 of the property tax cap law which allows, according to the local law, “a local government’s governing body to override the property tax cap for the coming fiscal year by the adoption of a local law approved by a vote of sixty percent of said governing body.” Mayor Mark Swinnerton voted in favor of the law along with Trustees Scott Gibson and Kevin Smith to reach the required 60 percent threshold. Trustees Wayne Weber and Paul Clifford were absent. The law is effective immediately upon filing with the New York Secretary of State.
    The public hearing on the proposed law was scheduled as the third item on the agenda for the Feb. 21 meeting. However, the board inadvertently skipped over the hearing until later in the evening. There was some debate between board members as to whether the vote could be held because of the oversight. They ultimately decided to begin the public hearing, go into executive session on an unrelated matter, and hold the vote following executive session once the required amount of time for the public hearing had elapsed.
    In other business:
    • The board decided not to make any immediate changes to the village skate program. The skate night staff along with parks director, Michele Hyde, appeared before the board after receiving several inquiries from concerned parents throughout the prior two weeks.
    Changes were being discussed because of a fall that had occurred at skate night. After the last meeting, the trustees renewed the entire matter with their attorney. The village board decided only to require that parents sign a release form at the center before allowing a child to skate.
    Trustee Scott Gibson explained that the insurance carrier also suggested providing first aid training to skate night staff and printing a hold harmless clause on tickets. As for the recommendations, said Gibson, “we can use them, but we don’t have to.”
    “Skating is a risk,” said Gibson, “lots of communities have abandoned skate programs for that reason.” The board assured the public they would do everything in their power to preserve skate night. “Having the program speaks volumes about our community,” added Swinnerton.
    The skate night staff, Debbie Besley, Melanie Blauvelt, Faun Farnsworth and Matt Farnsworth, expressed their concerns with the older children who attended the skate night. Blauvelt said that on occasion, older children will linger in the parking lot or leave without alerting staff who then have no way to know there whereabouts. The board and the skate staff agreed to meet at a later time and discuss ways to manage the problems with the older children and to protect the village from liability associated with the program.
    • The board approved the event application for the Seneca Lake Wine & Food event. Each department head signed off on the application prior to the board’s final approval. Parks Director Michelle Hyde said that the event approval process “was a plus for everybody,” but that, “there are still some kinks to work out.” Mayor Swinnerton added, “once people know what is going on, who is involved and what is expected of them it should go pretty smooth.” The Seneca Lake Wine & Food event was the first event to complete the village’s new event application process.
    • Board members discussed the dog park proposed by Barbara Cook at the Feb. 6 meeting. Cook had submitted a proposal to locate the dog park within Clute Park and Swinnerton was “surprised how much land they were requesting.” Gibson said that “the board wants to entertain possibly a pilot program, but where that is going to be I don’t know.” The board hoped that dog park organizers could sit down with village officials at some point to continue discussing the possibility of a dog park.
    • The board voted to aid the county in applying for additional shared services study funding. Schuyler County will be the lead agency in applying for a grant to fund a study as to the costs and benefits associated with consolidating the local code departments. Gibson stressed that eliminating the code department was not a move the village was contemplating at this time, but that the grant is “low hanging fruit,” worth applying for.
    The next board meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 5, at 7 p.m.




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