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SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The state budget adopted this week will bring around $2 million back to Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County in exchange for hosting the Saratoga Casino and Raceway.

The money, to be provided by the state before June 13, represents 45 percent of the amount the city and county received in 2008 as compensation for the costs associated with hosting the Crescent Avenue facility, which holds 1,700 video lottery terminals.

Saratoga Springs will get an estimated $1.5 million, while the county will get around $500,000 this year under the reimbursement formula, which was approved as part of the state's $132.5 billion spending plan.

The legislation requires the money be used to defray local costs associated with the gambling venues or to reduce local property taxes.

County officials said they intend to put the money into the fund balance, which was used to keep the property tax rate flat this year and is now at its lowest level in years.

Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner Ken Ivins said it remained unclear Thursday how the city could put the cash to use, but that the City Council would discuss the issue at its meeting on Tuesday.

"If we had known about it last fall, we could have planned accordingly, but we didn't know this was coming, so we didn't," Ivins said.

The partial restoration, announced by state lawmakers last week, comes two years after state officials opted to seize the local share of VLT revenue amid a budget crisis. The move stripped Saratoga Springs of a funding stream that at one point represented nearly 10 percent of its annual budget.

Local officials have fought to get the funding back ever since, saying Saratoga Springs and the county were being unfairly left out of the revenue sharing formula, and that the gambling facility might never have been approved in the first place if not for the promised financial assistance.

Nearly half of the revenue generated by VLTs in New York goes to the state to pay for education. The rest is put toward racetrack commissions, marketing, lottery administration and capital expenses.

The budget proposal put forward by Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this year called for VLT reimbursement only for the city of Yonkers, but area lawmakers prevailed in budget negotiations to get the partial restoration for all host communities.

"In Saratoga, it often happens that long shots with good riders come in first, and that's what happened this year with the VLT money," said Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Schenectady.

The legislation does not guarantee the money will continue to be given in future state budgets, however. Local officials said that makes it difficult to plan, and that they remain concerned they could be left out again.

"It's one of those things where we're just going to have to wait and see," Ivins said.


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