Deal would bring cut of VLT funds to Saratoga Springs, county
SARATOGA SPRINGS Saratoga Springs would receive $1.49 million and Saratoga County $499,000 in a three-way agreement reached by a conference committee in Albany on Tuesday to share video lottery terminal revenue.
The city and county have not received any VLT money for the past two years.
The VLT money is a host benefit paid to the city and the county for costs associated with the Saratoga Casino and Raceway in Saratoga Springs, which has more than 1,700 VLTs.
State Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, said late Tuesday afternoon that the agreement involving the state Senate, Assembly and Gov. Andrew Cuomo had been finalized in the General Government/Local Assistance conference committee, of which he is co-chairman.
“The VLTs are solid,” Farley said about the agreement that is expected to be part of the state’s 2011-12 state budget scheduled to be adopted by April 1.
The three-way agreement now goes to the main conference committee, which includes the majority leaders of the Senate and Assembly as well as representatives of the governor, among others. Farley stressed, however, that these issues will not be debated again because they have already been agreed upon. They will be included in the final state budget.
“It’s part of the budget process,” Farley said. He said VLT revenue-sharing was one of the first budget hurdles agreed upon by all parties.
Cuomo didn’t include any VLT revenue-sharing in his original executive state budget except for the city of Yonkers. But he indicated later that he might reconsider.
The agreement reached Tuesday includes 17 host municipalities, each receiving 45 percent of the VLT revenue they received in 2008. Yonkers would still get its full share.
“We are cautiously optimistic,” said Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner Kenneth Ivins.
He said the city has received no direct information from Albany about the revenue.
“I’ve been burned once already,” Ivins said. He referred to the fall of 2008, when the city was told its would get more than $1.7 million in VLT revenue-sharing money in 2009 and built this money into the proposed 2009 budget. But at the last moment, because of the state’s declining economic situation, the city was told it would not be getting any VLT revenue in 2009, Ivins said.
In 2008, the city received more than $3 million in VLT revenue based on a percentage of revenue at the casino and raceway on Nelson Avenue.
Ivins said Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County were the only host communities in the state not to get VLT money in 2009.
“I’m not celebrating yet,” Ivins said.
Farley said the VLT revenue that would be coming to Saratoga Springs would be 45 percent of their 2008 host revenue. The money will still have to be included in the new 2011-12 state budget for it to become a reality.
State Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, said Tuesday he wanted to thank Farley for negotiating this VLT revenue in his joint conference committee.
“It costs money to host a VLT facility, from plowing the roads to emergency response; this isn’t just aid but an investment in ensuring the continued success of the Saratoga Springs VLT location,” McDonald said in a written statement.
He said returning the VLT revenue to Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County has been a priority issue for him and Farley.
Farley said the joint conference committee also agreed to merge the state Banking Department and the state Insurance Department into a single state Department of Financial Services. Cuomo, when he took office in January, said he wanted to consolidate some of the state’s many departments and agencies to save money and better serve the public.
Farley said he is “very hopeful” that the Senate, Assembly and Cuomo can work together to adopt a balanced state budget by the April 1 deadline.