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City proposal met with skepticism

SARANAC LAKE - A proposal to charter Saranac Lake as a city is going to need a significant makeover before it has the support to become reality.

Officials from the village and towns that comprise Saranac Lake met at the Harrietstown town hall July 14 to review a feasibility study commissioned by the Saranac Lake Area Government Restructuring Committee.

Their response was that making Saranac Lake a city could lead to too much lost revenue for the three towns and two counties in which it's located.

The joint committee, comprised of representatives from the village and the towns of Harrietstown, North Elba and St. Armand, have been meeting with the New Paltz-based Fairweather Consulting firm for the past 12 months to find ways to reduce overlapping layers of government in the area and reduce costs to taxpayers.

Fairweather Consulting's Tim Weidemann presented an overview of the study, which examined the three most feasible options for restructuring. Village dissolution and the creation of a coterminous town-village were considered, but ultimately rejected because they were either too complicated to implement or created too much of a tax burden for residents outside the village.

In contrast, creation of a city was found to be a relatively simple solution that would amount to significant long-term savings for taxpayers in the village while having a minimal negative impact on the towns.

Still, many representatives from the towns felt the impact on their tax base was underestimated in the study, and said many questions are still left unanswered about the fiscal effects of chartering a city.

Creation of a city would remove the three towns' jurisdiction from Saranac Lake, requiring residents to pay property taxes only to the city government. Weidemann said the city would provide the same services as the village plus a few additional ones, leading to a slight savings to taxpayers within its borders.

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