GLENS FALLS -- Lake George Mayor Robert Blais said he is preparing a proposal for a regional taxing district to subsidize the Glens Falls Civic Center.
“I’ve always believed that everything has a regional impact,” said Blais, who plans to “kick around” his proposal at the next meeting of the Adirondack Gateway Council, a regional coalition of local government, economic development and planning entities.
Even before the proposal is presented, it is drawing skepticism from some local government officials in the region.
“I’m not saying I’m against it. I think the Civic Center’s a great facility and it’s been very helpful. ... But it’s going to be a very tough issue, I would think,” said Moreau Supervisor Preston Jenkins.
“I’m unsure what the cooperative venture will be there, but it’s worth at least a try,” said Queensbury Supervisor Ron Montesi.
A regional taxing district will be one of the concepts discussed as government officials and business leaders consider ways to deal with the cost of operating the city-owned arena, said Glens Falls Economic/Community Development Director Edward Bartholomew, who also is CEO of the Adirondack Gateway Council.
Other ideas include allocating a portion of Warren County occupancy tax to the Civic Center, and establishing a volunteer ushers corps, which could reduce employee costs.
City officials also are talking with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s staff about ways to reduce energy costs at the arena, Bartholomew said.
Officials are looking for ways to spread out the expense of operating the arena beyond city taxpayers.
The city is budgeted to provide a $605,360 subsidy this year for arena operations and debt.
The subsidy could be significantly higher if the officials are unable to recruit a new American Hockey League tenant to replace the Adirondack Phantoms, who are expected to relocate for the 2014-15 season to a new arena being built in Allentown, Pa.
Peter Aust, president and chief executive officer of Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce, said he will invite Blais to participate in a task force the chamber is assembling to discuss regional support for the Civic Center.
Several key business executives have agreed to serve on the task force, and he is now recruiting government officials and community leaders, with an initial meeting expected in mid-May.
Aust said he will identify the task force members once the complete membership is known.
Blais, who first mentioned the concept of a regional taxing district in a letter to the editor of The Post-Star published on Saturday, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday his proposal is based on a regional taxing district that was approved, but never implemented, in 1996 to fund a proposed convention center in Lake George.
The 1996 proposal called for Lake George property owners, who would benefit the most from the convention center, to pay the largest share of the special tax, with property owners in outlying municipalities paying a proportionate share based on how far the municipality is from Lake George.
“I thought we could use that model,” he said.
Blais said his secretary is preparing an analysis of the tax impact, based on a district that would include Lake George, Queensbury, Glens Falls, Moreau, Fort Edward and Kingsbury, including the villages within those towns.
The tax rate would be “miniscule,” spread out over such a large tax base, he suggested.
“It’s pennies, but it raised $500,000 to $600,000,” he said.
Blais said he he realizes the concept might be controversial.
“It’s something that if the politicians would go back to their communities and see what they think, I think it might be saleable. I’m not sure,” he said.
Jenkins, the Moreau supervisor, said he didn’t know enough about the proposal to take an immediate position, but many Moreau residents already feel the town shoulders an unfair share of costs for Crandall Public Library, and that might spill over into discussion of a new taxing district.
The library is funded by a regional taxing district that includes Moreau, Glens Falls and Queensbury.
About 35 percent of card holders that use the library live outside the three communities, Jenkins said.
“So that’s an issue for us. We’re not very happy about the amount we’re contributing there (to the library) when other communities aren’t,” he said.
Montesi said he would need to know more information about what property owners in each municipality conceivably would pay.
“If you’re looking at it from Queensbury’s point of view, we’re probably going to be the highest assessed community in that group. So I guess I would want to say, ‘What’s the impact on my taxpayers?’” he said.
Glens Falls Mayor John “Jack” Diamond said Blais has been a longtime supporter of the Civic Center and is a Phantoms season ticket holder.
“It’s nice to see him come up with some ideas to support the building,” Diamond said.