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Saratoga gets VLT money

The city has received $1 million more than budgeted in video lottery terminal revenue this year.

Mayor Valerie Keehn said $3.8 million was deposited in the city's bank account, June 28 more than $1 million above the $2.7 million the city expected to get this year.

Although Saratoga Springs received the revenue for 2007, the future of the city's VLT take is up in the air.

City officials have been lobbying to keep the VLT money after Gov. Eliot Spitzer proposed in an early version of the budget to remove the revenue from Saratoga Springs and other cities that did not meet a poverty test. Under that proposal, the revenue shares, which account for about 10 percent of the city budget this year, would be limited to two VLT communities: Yonkers and Monticello.

The city and assemblymen and senators serving Saratoga County have argued that it is unfair to the communities that host VLTs, regardless of whether they meet a poverty test, because they are still affected by gambling.

If you house one of these [racinos], you have costs that no other community has," Keehn said, citing the increased cost of public safety in the face of increased car accidents, police calls and traffic.

Keehn said the $3.8 million will go into the general fund budget for tax relief. This year's property tax rate was based on an expected $2.7 million, and the extra $1.1 million will probably sit in the city's general fund for now.

State law requires the aid from video lottery terminal revenue to go toward property tax relief or to the municipality's costs associated with the gaming facility. The City Council could set the money aside for a specific purpose, but Finance Commissioner Matthew McCabe said his department will recommend that it wait until city officials know how much it might get from other revenues, especially the sales tax and mortgage tax, before earmarking funds for specific projects.

City officials have said they've learned not to take the VLT revenue for granted.

"I think we need to be diligent and not just assume that we can sit back," Keehn said.

McCabe said his department will not rely on the VLT revenue to protect the city in case the revenue stream is blocked in the future.

"My job this year is to put as little VLT money in the budget as possible," he said. "It's really the right way to do it."

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