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Saratoga city, county VLT aid has been restored

Saratoga city, county VLT aid has been restored

State to distribute nearly $3 million during 2020-2021 fiscal year to compensate city and county for higher public safety costs
Saratoga city, county VLT aid has been restored
Saratoga Casino Hotel is shown in January 2018.
Photographer: ERica Miller/Staff Photographer

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The state video lottery terminal aid that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed to cut from the 2020-2021 state budget has been restored in the version passed Thursday by the state legislature.

The restoration of $2.3 million in aid to the city of Saratoga Springs and $775,000 in aid to Saratoga County for being host communities to the Saratoga Casino Hotel VLT gambling facility was finalized in the hurried budget negotiations Tuesday and Wednesday at the state Capitol in Albany and included in budget bills voted on Thursday.

“VLT Impact Aid is essential for communities like Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County that host gaming facilities such as racinos. The proposed cuts would have impacted public safety and emergency services in Saratoga Springs,” said state Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake.

The governor had proposed cutting the aid in his executive budget in January, saying communities with VLT facilities derive economy benefits from hosting them. But city and county officials vowed to fight the cut, noting the revenue was already included in their 2020 budgets.

While the Saratoga Casino Hotel, like other casinos across the state, is closed for the time being as part of efforts to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic, local officials say that the facility that opened in 2004 puts additional law enforcement and emergency response responsibilities on the city.

“The need for support covering the cost of hosting VLT facilities will continue for as long as we are hosting these facilities, and in the face of the current economy, this aid will be critical to our ability to protect the health, safety and welfare of our citizens, visitors and taxpayers,” said Saratoga Springs Mayor Meg Kelly.

Worner and state Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-Halfmoon, both worked to get the aid back into the budget.

City Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan has estimated the economic disruptions caused in response to the novel coronavirus could, in a worst-case scenario, result in a $16 million revenue loss for the city this year.

“I am working closely with the entire city government to minimize disruption to essential city services and to protect our employees, citizens, and taxpayers, Madigan said. “The restoration of VLT Impact Aid — which is approximately 4.27% of our projected revenues for the year — will help us to meet these challenges.”

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

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