Local government leaders optimistic over news that VLT funds have been put back in state budget
Municipal leaders would be pleasantly surprised if the final New York State budget for 2021-22 includes the restoration of Video Lottery Terminal funding generated from activity at Batavia Downs Gaming.
“If it is indeed true that we will receive the $440,789 that we typically have gotten or even a portion thereof, we could bring back some of the programming we cut in our budget – such as equipment for various departments and overtime for special police details,” City Manager Rachael Tabelski said today.
Tabelski said City Council did not budget for the VLT money, which has become a volatile issue in state budget negotiations – in, then out and then back in again at a reduced amount.
She was reacting to a press release shared by state Sen. Edward Rath III this morning, indicating that the state’s final budget bill includes $800,000 in VLT aid to be split among the city, Town of Batavia and Genesee County.
Rath said that he strongly opposed when the VLT provision originally was left out of the Senate One-House budget.
“Many of our communities are beginning to recover from COVID and the financial implications, to cut their funding at such a critical time would be detrimental,” he said.
Tabelski said she wouldn’t support using VLT money to fund hiring or unfreezing of positions. Instead, she said she would recommend funding police, fire and/or public works positions that were previously unfunded should the state fully restore its Aid and Incentives for Municipalities.
“The AIM payments have been more stable; with the VLT money, we’ve been on a rollercoaster,” she said.
Previous VLT allocations resulted in $200,392 coming to Genesee County and $160,388 coming to the Town of Batavia.
County Manager Matt Landers said he budgeted $160,313 – a 20-percent reduction -- in VLT aid in 2021, but, until recently, was concerned that the county wouldn’t even receive that much.
As far as the Town of Batavia is concerned, Supervisor Gregory Post said the board did not budget for this funding in 2021 because “it has not been reliable.”
“We always were waiting until the last minute (to see if it would be coming),” Post said. “In 2020, when we did budget for it, we received notice that we wouldn’t be receiving it at the expected time.”
Post said the town received part of the VLT funds in 2020 and the rest, minus 5 percent, early in 2021.
He said the $160,388 in unanticipated revenue is “good news” and will help the town “attenuate significant loss in revenue from Genesee County.”
Landers and Tabelski thanked Rath and Assemblyman Stephen Hawley for their efforts to restore the full amount.
“We are grateful to both Senator Rath and Assemblyman Hawley for lobbying for this revenue that benefits the county, city and town greatly,” Landers said.
A spokesperson for Rath moments ago confirmed that the full amount of VLT funding has been put back into the budget, and expected it to be passed over the next several hours.