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Woerner, city to fight for Saratoga VLT aid

Woerner, city to fight for Saratoga VLT aid

Saratoga could lose more than $2.3 million under Cuomo plan
Woerner, city to fight for Saratoga VLT aid
Advertisement sign for Saratoga Casino and Hotel, shown near exit 11, in Round Lake, on Thursday, October 18, 2018.
Photographer: Erica Miller

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- State Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner said Wednesday she will fight to restore more than $2.3 million in aid that the city would lose under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's proposed 2020-2021 executive budget.

"Video lottery terminal aid is essential to offset costs associated with hosting a Video lottery terminal [facility], including costs associated with public safety," said Woerner, D-Round Lake, whose 113th Assembly District includes Saratoga Springs.

"I am committed to ensuring that it is restored in the final 2020-2021 enacted budget," she said.

With the state grappling with a projected $6.1 billion deficit in next year's budget, Cuomo's budget proposal released on Tuesday included cutting the VLT aid to communities with VLT gambling facilities like the Saratoga Casino Hotel. "The revenue benefits of hosting a facility outweigh any associated costs," according to a statement in the budget briefing book.

Cuomo also proposed cutting the aid in 2015, but after city officials objected it was restored during budget negotiations. Budget negotiations between the governor, Senate and Assembly are expected to start shortly, with the goal of having an adopted state budget by the April 1 deadline.

"In Saratoga Springs, thousands of guests visit the Saratoga Casino Hotel to gamble and otherwise enjoy the casino's facilities," Woerner said. "Unfortunately, the influx of visitors puts an additional strain on the city, and particularly on the Saratoga Springs Police Department. VLT aid is used to alleviate some of that cost."

City Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan also the city will again fight to get the $2,325,592 in  funding restored, saying the loss of revenue would be significant for a city with a $48.7 million annual budget. The money is used primarily to pay for police and firefighters, she said.

"It goes without saying that this would be a significant loss of revenue to the city, while the expenses of hosting a premier race track remains our responsibility," Madigan said.

The aid has been awarded to the city since 2006-2007, Madigan said.

Madigan said she and other City Council members will be contacting the Senate, Assembly and governor's office about the importance of the aid. "We need to protect the city's outstanding revenue sources, especially one that is so closely linked to the city's history, identity and expenses," Madigan said.

Saratoga County receives about $775,000 in VLT aid. Supervisors Matthew Vietch and Tara Gaston, the city's representatives on the county Board of Supervisors, said they expect the county to also lobby for restoration of the aid, to both the city and the county.

Reach staff writer Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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