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Town hits a $1.1 million state jackpot

When the Town of Hamburg received a check for $1.1 million from New York State a couple of weeks ago, town officials weren't quite sure why they were getting it.

Supervisor Steven Walters said that after some investigation, it was discovered the check was based on legislation that quietly slipped through with 2007-2008 budget giving host communities of video lottery gaming sites a piece of the pie.

"The check has been received; the cash is in the bank," said Walters. "We hadn't budgeted for it, so it's a huge windfall for the town."

The money comes from a measure on Page 153 of the 194-page Legislature's budget. It changes state finance law to give Hamburg 3.5 percent of the "estimated net machine income" from Fairgrounds Gaming and Raceway.

Of that amount, one-quarter goes to Erie County. Hamburg gets the rest.

The law applies specifically to "video lottery gaming."

Walters said he had spoken with Assemblyman Jack Quinn III, R-Hamburg, over the past year about the town providing services at the facility, but he hadn't been aware any relief was on the way.

"Obviously, the fair and all the activities in the fairgrounds put a drain on town resources," he said. "There's police and fire safety, plus the more indirect things like additional use of town roads. So getting over a million from that facility will certainly help."

Councilwoman Joan Kesner, who is also a staffer in the office of State Sen. William Stachowski, D-Buffalo, said she knew some money was coming as a result of the legislation, but she was stunned at the size of the check.

"For years, we have provided public safety to that piece of property and really have not received anything in return," she said. "When we found out how much the check was, we were practically ready to dance around the table."

Kesner and Walters both urged restraint in how the money is used, though, suggesting ways to cut taxes without coming to depend on the money. Walters suggested using it toward already planned capital projects or to pay off bonds and cut interest payments.

"We don't want to get in a postion to rely on it every year because you can't predict it," said Kesner.

Walters said the check is based on estimates for this year's income. If income at the fairgrounds lags, money would be deducted from next year's payments.


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