CUMBERLAND — An advisory council appointed by Allegany County Commissioners on May 1 is developing a long-term strategy for handling local impact grants from the Rocky Gap Casino Resort, said Jason Bennett, Allegany County finance director and chairman of the Local Development Council.
“The goal is to look at a multiyear plan,” Bennett said. The council will also review decisions already made by commissioners. While the council is advisory, it is mandated by state law, Bennett said. The first meeting for the council was June 30, and the next one is expected Aug. 25, Bennett said. “So far, so good,” Bennett said.The state also wants to see a long-range plan for use of the funds, according to commissioners.
The amount of the local impact grants as a percentage of the proceeds distributed to the county will increase from the current 2.75 percent to 5.50 percent in fiscal 2023.
County commissioners have set up a five-year plan for distribution of the county’s share of the revenue.
Commissioners decided to divide the scholarship money with 45 percent going to the ACM Foundation and 25 percent to the FSU Foundation.
Other funds from the Rocky Gap Casino Resort’s slots operations will be distributed as follows: 10 percent each going to Allegany County fire and rescue departments and capital projects for the board of education. The remaining 10 percent would be used for Allegany County pay as you go funds for specific projects, which will help lessen the need to borrow funds in the future, the commissioners said. The funds will be disbursed quarterly, according to the proposal, except that the board of education funds will be on a reimbursement basis for capital projects.
The money for the fire and rescue companies and the board of education could help make up for declining revenues from county paper gaming operations. Those revenues have fallen off for years, long before the casino opened. The board and fire and rescue companies are the main beneficiaries of county paper gaming revenues.
The council can review the decision and even hold a public hearing if it wishes, according to the law.
At the May 1 meeting, County Attorney Bill Rudd said the funds can be spent for infrastructure, improvements, facilities, public safety, sanitation, economic and community development, including housing, and other public services and improvements. Rudd said that the commissioners’ proposed use of the funds is being handled properly since the scholarship program is part of economic and community development.
Revenues from the casino are meeting the county’s expectations, and look to be coming in at about $750,000 in the casino’s first year of operations, Bennett said.
The council has 15 members, including both elected officials and private citizens. The current members will serve through 2018.
Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.