Niagara Gazette

Opinion

May 13, 2013

Niagara Falls needs to be ready for casino cash outcome

Niagara Gazette — Thirteen million dollars is what will remain after the city receives an anticipated $70 million in casino revenue and pays its bills.

That $13 million is how much casino cash will remain of the original $70 million after the city pays its annual debt, repays the city general fund, pays $3 million toward the train station and, pays what is owed to the NTCC, Memorial Medical Center, Niagara Falls School District, Niagara Falls International Airport and the Underground Railroad Commission.

It’s critical that we get these figures out in the open in order to take a realistic look at what the city will face when the state/Seneca Nation arbitration concludes.

Receiving the $70 million would be the good news.

While that would be the good news there are two other possible outcomes that aren’t so good: 1) the city could receive a portion of the casino cash, 2) the city could receive zero casino cash.

So, what if we receive only a portion or absolute zero?

To say a zero dollar settlement would create a disaster 2014 budget would be putting it mildly. A zero dollar settlement would mean disaster budgets well beyond 2014 that would leave the city struggling to pay for services and cover its annual debt (much of that debt tied to the 30-year mortgage of the municipal building). Bankruptcy could become a possibility.

And, what if we receive the $70 million? How would we use the $13 million remainder and how should we use the $13 million remainder? Should and would are two different things.

Many of our streets need paving and rebuilding and we have an annual debt on the municipal building that will drain our budget for more than the next two decades. It’s been suggested that we dedicate all of our casino revenue to the municipal building mortgage. Paying it off is a great idea but the numbers just aren’t going to come together for us to make that possible. We owe too much on the building and we have too many citywide obligations.

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