New Albany News

District officials wary about relying on cash from casino

First payment expected to be $97,000; future shares of tax revenue difficult to estimate, FRRC concludes

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

By the end of the month, New Albany-Plain Local School District officials should receive almost $97,000 in revenue from taxes collected on the state's new casinos.

This would be the first time Ohio districts have benefited from the casino tax revenue, but district officials said they were not sure how -- or if -- New Albany-Plain Local would plan for the money in the future.

Gary Gudmundson, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Taxation, said Ohio's school districts would receive casino funds twice each year, on Jan. 31 and Aug. 31.

New Albany-Plain Local's first payment is expected to be $96,915.95, according to the department of taxation website. Interim Treasurer Peg Betts said the first payment equates to $21 per student.

During the Jan. 14 meeting of the district's financial review and reporting committee, Betts said the revenue was not included in the district's most recent five-year forecast, which Ohio law requires school districts to complete prior to Oct. 31 and update between April 1 and May 31 each year.

Betts said estimated casino funds were not included because it wasn't clear how much money the casinos would generate.

In addition, Superintendent April Domine said, it is not clear whether the funds will be additional or if they will be considered part of the state's funding for schools.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich is expected on Jan. 31 to release his budget, including his recommendation for school funding, said the governor's spokesman, Rob Nichols.

School board member Mark Ryan, who serves on the FRRC, said it may be difficult to anticipate casino revenue for future financial forecasts.

FRRC member Phil Derrow recommended not planning for the casino money and using any unanticipated revenue to help lengthen levy cycles.

According to the department of taxation, school funds are part of a 33 percent tax on gross casino revenue, which is "the total amount of money exchanged for tokens, chips and tickets at a casino facility, less any winnings paid out to wagerers."

The tax money will be distributed to Ohio counties in the following manner:

* 51 percent to county governments. Counties that contain cities with more than 80,000 people -- which are Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown -- will direct 50 percent of the money to the city.

* 34 percent to the student fund, which will be distributed to school districts twice annually. The fund is based on student population by county, Gudmundson said.

* 5 percent to cities that host the casinos: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo. The Cincinnati casino is the only one that has not yet opened, according to the Ohio casino website.

* 3 percent to the Ohio Casino Control Commission fund.

* 3 percent to the Ohio State Racing Commission fund.

* 2 percent to a law-enforcement training fund through the Ohio Attorney General's Office.

* 2 percent to a casino gambling and addictions fund.

New bond counsel

In other business Jan. 14, the FRRC learned the district has chosen Squire Sanders of Columbus as bond counsel.

Betts said the district received four letters of interest for the position.

Ryan said Squire Sanders was chosen because it is the top firm in the country and already has experience in New Albany, working with the city of New Albany and the New Albany Community Authority.

Betts said the district has received four requests for qualifications from companies interested in serving as the district's financial adviser.

The companies are: the PFM Group of Cleveland; Fifth Third Bank Securities of Columbus; Robert W. Baird and Co. of Columbus; and Sudsina and Associates of Aurora.

Betts said she anticipates interviews for the advisory position will be completed later this month.

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