Grow Greene County tells thoughts on gaming funds

Grow Greene County logoInterest in how Grow Greene County Gaming Corporation will distribute the charitable funds generated by Wild Rose Jefferson is high, at least in Jefferson.

About 40 persons attended a “town hall” meeting Sunday at the Extension office in Jefferson. Six persons attended a similar meeting held earlier Sunday in Scranton. The meetings continue Thursday, Jan. 15, and Monday, Jan. 19, in Paton, Churdan, Rippey and Grand Junction.

Grow Greene County (GGC) has the duty of distributing an estimated $1.5 million annually, with $1.3 million of that going to groups and projects in Greene County. The remaining $200,000 will be distributed to contiguous counties. The charitable funds represent 5 percent of the adjusted gaming revenue (AGR). The AGR is the all money taken in on gambling, less winnings paid out. It is not calculated on the profit of the casino.

The meetings are being held to gather input from community members about the process of distributing funds as Grow Greene County plans its funding strategies. Several groups had representatives at the meeting lobbying for various projects, but GGC members made no promises.

GGC provided an overview of projects that have been funded in recent years by the Greene County Community Foundation. Since 2006, the Community Foundation has distributed gaming revenues given by the state to non-gaming counties. With the opening of Wild Rose, Greene County will no longer receive the state funds.

Community Foundation to fund smaller projects: The Community Foundation has in recent years had about $100,000 to distribute. In the 2014 grant cycle, more than $400,000 was requested. Grow Greene County plans to provide at least $100,000 each year, and very likely more, to the Community Foundation. GCC plans for the Community Foundation to continue to receive requests to fund projects in a price range of less than $10,000 or so.

The Community Foundation has in the past required a 50 percent match from the group applying for funds, as required by the state. Because the foundation will not receive state funds, that requirement could be waived. That decision will be made by the Community Foundation board. Similarly, GCC will not require a 50 percent match in the projects it funds.

Grow Greene County plans to fund large projects: “We’ve talked about ‘wow’ projects, about large projects that make a statement, that people will see and know that they were funded because the voters and residents in the county approved the casino an worked to make it happen,” said Mike Mumma, a GCC member. “We want to do visible projects that would not otherwise be done.”

Jefferson mayor Craig Berry asked how funds will be distributed to cities, suggesting that a per capita calculation would be fair. GCC member Norm Fandel said that decision hasn’t yet been made, and added that cities could apply for additional funds for projects beyond their allocation. Cities would be able to carry over GCC funds from year to year for large infrastructure projects.

Although the process is not finalized, GCC shared members shared other points of their discussion:

  • A large project could receive GCC funds in successive years.
  • GCC funds will be available to non-profit organizations, including churches. However, church sponsored projects could not be of a religious nature.
  • GCC will fund projects, not operating budgets or salaries.
  • GCC will not make donations to booster clubs, benefits (such as those held to help cover medical expenses), or events.

Grow Greene County member Rick Morain reminded those at the meeting that in addition to the charitable funds GCC will distribute, Greene County and the city of Jefferson will each receive .5 percent of the AGR directly from Wild Rose. That amount is estimated at $150,000 for each entity. The Wild Rose/Cobblestone Inn development will add $45 million to the county’s property valuation as well, and hotel/motel tax revenues are projected to increase from $35,000 a year to $100,000.

The target date for Grow Greene County’s first grant cycle is the spring of 2016.

Grow Greene County town hallMembers of Grow Greene County listened to comments and answered questions at the Jefferson meeting. Pictured are (from left) Peg Raney, Craig Marquardt, Kate Neese, Lori Mannel, Mike Mumma, Bob Allen, Rick Morain, and Norm Fandel. In the background are renderings of the interior of Wild Rose Jefferson.

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