State cuts stress Saratoga Springs

"We wanted to provide some advance notice to the communities so they could balance their budgets accordingly," said Anderson. "We believe that the aid provided is not actually related in any way to the local municipality's fiscal need or the cost incurred to the local municipality."

City officials say that with a reduction in state police aid and flagging downtown tax revenues, the costs associated with the racino have increased as of late.

The city went to Albany with hat in hand in 2006, when former Gov. Eliot Spitzer proposed an elimination of VLT funding altogether. Intervention by former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno helped keep the money in play, but Bruno is a resource the city no longer has.

Accounts Commissioner John Franck said that this golden goose was bound to stop laying eggs, and the city needs to acknowledge it.

"As I've said numerous times at the table, this shouldn't be a shock to anyone," he said. "I've been in the minority on this for the past three years."

Franck feels that the city shouldn't budget for VLT money; it would be a pleasant surprise if it arrives intact, but leaving a potential 5 percent of the budget in limbo strikes him as unwise.

"It's a dependence issue," said Franck. "The bottom line is, you have this event, and you have to have a response to it. If the response is to ignore it, you're not going to get a good result."

If VLT money is left out of the budget, it will have to be made up with a double-digit tax hike, service reductions or both, according to Finance Commission Kenneth Ivins. The current proposal calls for a 2.7 percent tax increase.

The city holds about $4 million in reserves that could also be raided. That could affect the city's bond rating and ability to borrow money, though.

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