State cuts stress Saratoga Springs

Just weeks after the Saratoga Springs City Council reviewed a new 2009 budget that shored up major spending cuts with a sigh of relief, the issue of budget shortfalls is back on the table.

Gov. David Paterson's plan to save $5.2 billion over the next two years includes a 50 percent reduction in video lottery terminal impact aid, and Saratoga Springs is one of 18 municipalities statewide that collects millions from the program.

Currently $3.8 million in VLT aid was budgeted for next year. If Paterson's plan goes through, it will leave the city's proposed $38 million budget 5 percent light come mid-2009, assuming the money is left in. Taking it out will mean tax hikes or service reductions. A budget made up of a mix of the two scenarios could also be drawn up.

The City Council discussed the matter at its Tuesday, Nov. 18, meeting, after spending two days at the capitol lobbying for retention of the funds.

I wish we could report that it's more optimistic than it may appear to be, but it's not resolved as of yet, said Mayor Scott Johnson.

The council called on the citizenry to lobby and submit their input to the council by e-mail or phone.

"I think we all have to realize here in this community it's going to be up to you all to also lobby your legislators on this issue," said Commissioner of Public Safety Ron Kim. "I think we really need to pull together, not only as a council, but as a community. If our department is cut, you will feel it in things that happen out there."

VLT aid is intended to help municipalities that host the terminals compensation for the costs associated with their presence, such as increased police patrols or infrastructure needs, according to Matt Anderson, a spokesman for the New York State Division of the Budget.

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