Thursday, April 18, 2013


With the ongoing community chatter regarding the siting of a possible slots parlor in Worcester, I started to wonder what one could figure out about the changes such a facility might make on the public schools. As the first thing that keeps being argued is what a great community benefit the financing would be, I thought I should look at that first.

And, sure enough, there's quite a bit to find: specifically, there's quite a bit about the impact that the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh--owned by the same group proposing a slots parlor in Worcester--has had on their school system's finances.

Most specifically, it lead me to this settlement in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. The Rivers Casino, owned by Rush Street Gaming, has appealed their property assessment every single year that they have been open.The casino opened in August of 2009; they have appealed their property taxes in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.
As pointed out by a local columnist, it's difficult to feel much sympathy for a facility that has brought in $1 billion in revenue since it opened. The facility has repeatedly claimed that parts of their mitigation agreement should be counted towards their tax assessment. As schools in Pennsylvania are largely dependent on property taxes, the appeals hit the school budget directly.
While the court settled the past years, for 2013, the casino is appealing their tax assessment again.This again puts their school budget in jeopardy. It also means that the city and schools must spend more time--and money--to try to get what was touted as being a boost to local tax revenue to pay their assessment.

Now, this gets even more interesting when you apply the school finance system in Massachusetts. Should any such facility open in Worcester and make any money, it would increase what the state uses to calculate community wealth.
As Worcester would, to the state's perception, be wealthier, the state would lower our Chapter 70 aid.
The expectation would be that the city would be able to pay for more of the school budget out of the tax levy.
That only works, of course, if your taxpayers pay their taxes. If they instead take the city to court, then the city would be on the hook for the increased proportion of the school budget and would not have the funds to pay for it, as the facility wasn't paying taxes owed.
If you think we have a net school spending gap now, agree to sign a deal with Rush Street Gaming.
THEN you'll really see a gap!

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