Seneca Nation Payments To State Remain Up In The Air

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NIAGARA FALLS – An arbitration ruling that the Seneca Nation must continue to pay funds to the state has not produced any payments since the January ruling, however arbiters have not decided when or how much the Nation must pay.

According to WNYNewsNow news partner WIVB, cities that use revenue from the Seneca Niagara Casinos are still waiting for the money.

In January, an arbitration panel ruled 2-1 that the Seneca Nation should not have cut off their casino payments to the state.

“It’s kind of like their position was ‘we took a mortgage on the right to have a casino, we paid off that mortgage, and we’re still entitled to the benefits of the agreement,'” explained Assemblyman Angelo Morinello (R-Niagara Falls).

After the Senecas extended their compact with the state to run the casinos, they also stopped making those payments.

“The Seneca’s position was when the original schedule was completed, that eliminated their obligation to pay anymore funds,” Morinello said.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the funding, Morinello is urging the cities that use the money to keep it out of their budget. The Niagara Falls City School District has used the funds in the past to make payments on the district’s athletic facility, but this year Superintendent Mark Laurrie said they’re not getting their hopes up.

“We decided that last year, despite the fact that we knew it would be in arbitration, we planned as if we weren’t going to receive it and built the budget that way,” he said.

Morinello said that’s exactly what the municipalities should do – budget around that funding and remain cautious.

“I hope the lesson is, live within your means, learn how to budget, and learn how to budget properly,” he said.

Besides Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca are also waiting for this funding. There is no clear timeline of when the arbitrators’ final ruling will happen – and then those cities must still wait to receive those payments.

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