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July 1, 2020 - 1:12pm

City, Town, County receive 80 percent of VLT allocation from New York State

posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, city of batavia, genesee county, town of batavia, covid-19.

City of Batavia, Genesee County and Town of Batavia leaders reported that they have received four-fifths of the video lottery terminal funds owed to their municipalities by New York State.

“Our VLT money came in today (Tuesday) – 80 percent of the $440,000,” said Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski.

The City’s actual number was $440,789, so that means that $352,631 is being added to its coffers at this time.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski said that although the money doesn’t change the recently passed 2020-21 budget that calls for a 7.48 percent property tax increase, it certainly will help ease the pain.

“That’s really good news, actually,” Jankowski said. “The budget is fixed – we’re set with that – but the additional money will help to offset some of the damage done by the COVID-19 situation.  It offsets some of the loss of sales tax revenue and other income because of the virus.”

Jankowski said City officials are expecting a 30 percent loss of income due to the pandemic, but he’s hoping it’s not quite that bad.

“I’m looking forward to see the June numbers to see if we’re continuing in a positive direction,” he noted.

Tabelski said the VLT funds generated at Batavia Downs Gaming aren’t enough to alter the City’s ultra-conservative approach as it deals with COVID-19.

“It still doesn’t change our austerity budget planning,” she said. “We can’t open up the flood gates in spending.”

Tabelski said that management created a COVID austerity plan several weeks ago, halting purchases, travel and training and instituting a hiring freeze to decrease expenses. The City did not furlough employees, but did lay off part-time employees, including those who ran the summer youth program.

“A victim of that (hiring freeze) was our summer youth program,” she said. “We have 150 kids throughout the city that come in – and from the town -- to utilize the parks. That was a hard decision, but in light of COVID and not knowing the social distancing, it also made it an easy decision.”

In March, City Council passed its 2020-21 budget with the tax increase based on the assumption that the state would be withholding the VLT money. The board appealed to Albany and solicited the support of Assemblyman Stephen Hawley and Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer.

Reached today by telephone, Hawley said that Gov. Andrew Cuomo released “what he believes he can do to remain solvent (80 percent) … as it is directly tied to the horrific situation that we’re in.”

Still, he says that if the economy recovers or federal stimulus money is forwarded to the state, the other 20 percent of the VLT money should be given to the municipalities.

Hawley said that he hopes newly-elected Congressman Chris Jacobs would fight for federal funds for municipalities. He also blamed Cuomo for the state’s financial dilemma.

“The State of New York hasn’t been managed smoothly in terms of balancing the budget,” he said. “He (Cuomo) entered with $6.2 billion deficit going into his 2020-21 budget and now that COVID is upon us, the (deficit) numbers from the governor doubles and quadruples. Some states have been run in a prudent fashion and others have not – with New York State being one of them.”

Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post said that the Town will be getting $128,310 in VLT funds – 80 percent of the full amount of $160,388.

“We are constantly fighting an uphill battle for them (state leaders) to perform the way they expect us to perform,” Post said.

Genesee County Treasurer Scott German said that $160,313 has been received. That also is 80 percent of the county’s full allocation of $200,392.

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