Stalemate with state, Seneca Nation puts $230K at risk for Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 September 2017 at 8:10 am

ALBION – Orleans County is among 16 counties in Western New York waiting on revenue-sharing money from the Seneca Nation.

For Orleans County, the number is $230,661 in annual revenue. County officials are working on the 2018 budget and aren’t sure what to expect with the money from the Senecas.

The Senecas announced in March it met its obligation for sharing casino revenue with the counties, three cities (Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca) and the state. Seneca President Todd Gates told reporters that the original 2002 contract with the state allowed the Senecas to cease the payments after 14 years.

The Senecas haven’t sent any quarterly revenue sharing payments since then.

State Sen. Robert Ortt said it looks like the state made a mistake in the contract even though the spirit of the contract called for continued revenue sharing beyond the 14 years. He is hoping Gov. Andrew Cuomo will humble himself, acknowledge the error and reach a deal with the Senecas, without publicly berating the Indian nation.

(Cuomo has threatened to build a new casino in Niagara Falls in retaliation. Ortt thinks that is the wrong approach to reaching an agreement with the Senecas.)

“My primary concern has been – and remains – a timely resolution to restore critical funding for our schools, hospitals, and law enforcement with a focus on economic development,” Ortt stated on his Facebook page.

Cuomo has canceled two scheduled meetings with Gates and the Senecas to discuss the issue.

“By canceling the scheduled meeting with the Seneca President and openly floating the idea of placing a new casino in Niagara Falls, the governor is needlessly escalating this dispute and moving away from helping local stakeholders,” Ortt said. “Whether it’s a sit down meeting or arbitration, action is long overdue and we need true leadership – not posturing.”

Ortt said it looks unlikely a new agreement will be reached before the end of this year. He would like to see the Senecas maintain the local revenue-sharing until a new accord can be reached.

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