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Saratoga Springs Begins Another Push For State Aid Restoration

The New York State Capitol in Albany
Lucas Willard
The New York State Capitol in Albany

Officials in the City of Saratoga Springs are once again lobbying the state legislature to restore aid funding from New York’s video lottery terminal gambling facilities.

Once again, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal includes an elimination of state aid to communities that host gambling at video lottery terminals. The proposed $10.3 million in cuts would affect 15 municipalities with VLT facilities. Yonkers would not be affected.

The City of Saratoga Springs is lobbying again for a re-instatement of the funding. Faced with further uncertainty around whether a new federal COVID relief package will provide support to state and local finances, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan updated her fellow council members Tuesday night.  

“Without relief, the city remains to experience a substantial dip in cash flow, come June of 2021.”

Home to Saratoga Casino Hotel, the city could lose around $2.3 million if the VLT aid isn’t fully restored. Saratoga County could lose about $775,000.

“If this is sustained by the New York State legislature, the city will need to adjust to a substantial revision in revenue available in order to support current operating expenses through 2021,” said Madigan.

Despite the budget challenges in 2020 associated with the pandemic, the state legislature was able to reinstate VLT aid to municipalities, though it was later reduced by 20 percent in a round of across-the-board spending cuts.

State Senator Daphne Jordan and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner wrote to Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders calling for a restoration of the funding. Saratoga Springs Mayor Meg Kelly and Madigan have also drafted letters.

Kelly called for a letter of support from the council as a whole, and from the city’s two county supervisors, Tara Gaston and Matthew Veitch.

“So could you and maybe Supervisor Veitch do your own letter for VLT for us?”

“Absolutely,” said Gaston.

“OK. So that would be terrific. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’ll send it from as council. You’ll send it as the supervisors. And then we’re gonna be trying to hit them from all angles. That’s all we’re trying to say,” said Kelly.

Last year, Kelly, Madigan, and Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton testified before the state legislature about the VLT aid, and the officials plan to appear at this year’s virtual budget hearings on February 11th .

Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Sciricco made another suggestion that the city band together with other communities across the state.

“And I think it’s important that we need to get together with other municipalities that have lost VLT aid, because I’m sure they’re hurting just as bad,” said Scirocco.

Gaston, who chairs the county board’s Committee on Public Health, also provided a COVID-19 update.

The number of new positive tests in the county has dropped by around 40 percent over the last two weeks, said Gaston. To date, about 22,000 county residents have received at least once shot of the vaccine.

Gaston addressed the unplanned receipt from the state of 400 doses of the vaccine last week, saying it was the first unplanned vaccine delivery in the state.

Half of the vaccines were distributed to seniors in their homes. Others received the shot at the county’s Public Health Services office in Ballston Spa. Those selected were chosen from lists of high-priority residents with special needs or other barriers to travel compiled by officials from across the county, said Gaston.

“There were a lot of tears and a lot of happy faces on Saturday, and it is my sincere hope that New York State sees what we’ve been able to do and expand our availability, because that’s the work that public health is really good at and that’s what they’re doing, and they want to keep doing that,” said Gaston.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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