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Chamber, village at odds over funding

Officials with the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce want the village of Saranac Lake to continue supporting the organization.

During a press conference Thursday afternoon at the Blue Moon Caf , the chamber's executive director, Sylvie Nelson, credited village trustees for their "careful review" of the 2011-2012 budget.

Nelson said crafting a budget is a "daunting task."

But Nelson said the village's plan to phase-out funding for the chamber is a bad idea, as is cutting the village's investment in civic organizations.

Trustees are looking to end the village's funding of groups like the chamber, the Saranac Lake Adult Center, and others because village taxpayers residing within the towns of North Elba, St. Armand, and Harrietstown end up paying twice for those contributions.

"We believe that the issue of double-taxation has become more of a 'cause celebre' for the village board than anything else," she said. "When you look at the numbers, when they're lumped together, the proposed double-taxation cuts amount to about $35,000."

That amounts to less than one cent per $100 of the tax levy, Nelson says.

"We believe that this is a superficial argument that does not translate into any savings to the taxpayers, while also undermining and hurting the very organizations that deliver needed services to our community," she said.

52 percent of the chamber's membership exists outside of the village limits, Nelson said. The organization's total annual operating budget is approximately $150,000 - about 20 percent of that budget comes through government contributions.

Keith Wells is chairman of the chamber's board of directors. He credits the village for slowly phasing out funding rather than ending it abruptly.

However, he adds that government has an obligation to promote the community - that means supporting the chamber, which he calls the "front door" to Saranac Lake.

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