By MORGAN FRISCH
Recorder News Staff
Montgomery and Fulton counties have started to receive anticipated revenue from the Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady but officials said they are waiting before putting that money to use.
So far in 2017, Montgomery County has received $46,181 in casino revenue funding, issued on behalf of the Upstate NY Gaming and Economic Development Act.
“Most of the time I’m dealing with expenses rising and we’ve seen somewhat flat revenues. It’s certainly a welcome bit of revenue that wasn’t there previously,” Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort said. “Anytime you have new revenue coming in, that’s certainly a positive. I think we’d like to get through the year and see what the gaming revenue share will be for the county before we make any big decisions.”
According to the Gaming Commission’s website, “gaming facility revenue will benefit all regions of New York” through the same formula used to split the license fees. Counties receive revenues on a quarterly basis, according to local officials.
The Upstate NY Gaming and Economic Development Act states 10 percent will go to the host municipality and county and another 10 percent to surrounding counties in the region based on population. The remaining 80 percent “will be applied statewide for school aid and/or real property tax relief.”
The legislation was passed in 2013 to help aid local governments and boost the economy.
The Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor paid a $50 million license fee after the state Gaming Commission awarded its license on Dec. 21, 2015. The capital region received $10 million, with half to be split between the city of Schenectady and Schenectady County as the host municipality and county. The other $5 million was divided between Albany, Fulton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schoharie and Washington counties based on population.
Montgomery County received $283,737 for the licensing fee and Fulton County received $313,750.
The remaining $40 million was distributed among public schools statewide as part of the state education formula.
Ossenfort said the funds received from the licensing fee and revenues from 2017 were put into the general fund.
“I would love to have a mechanism in which the funding is automatically dedicated to infrastructure, but I think at this point, we don’t have a clear idea of how much that revenue is going to be every year,” he said. “So I think for now, we go through a year and see what the amount is going to be.”
He mentioned that it would be nice to have a recurring revenue source to pay for capital projects each year, but he’s not sure it will be this one in particular.
“Funding capital projects and infrastructures projects is going to be a big item that we talk about in the budget this year and I think that would be a more appropriate time to have that discussion rather than doing anything right now,” Ossenfort said about the casino revenues.
Fulton County officials did not have a year-to-date revenue figure to release as of Thursday. However, Fulton County Administrative Officer Jon Stead said the $313,750 in licensing fees and any revenues received so far in 2017 were placed into the general revenue account in the county’s budget.
“At some point, when we go to start putting together our new budget, we will take a look at that revenue and hopefully use it to reduce next year’s tax levy,” Stead said.
He said officials did not have a good understanding of what the revenue amounts would be when they built the 2017 budget and it’s likely they will be able to predict it for 2018.
“We are getting revenue, it’s not a huge amount at this point but it’s a reasonable and probably relatively reliable revenue stream. After a couple of years we will be able to predict what that would be,” Stead said. “Counties are interested in any kind of revenue that will take the pressure off of property taxes. I think it will be a helpful gain, once it comes in. Usually it takes a full year for us to watch that revenue trend to see where it’s headed. So we won’t really have a good picture for another few months.”