Wait for casino cash continues

It appears that more patience will be needed before a payoff comes to communities near the Four Winds Casino near New Buffalo.

The casino promised to share some of its wealth with locals who faced higher expenses for things like police protection. However, that promise has not yet been kept.

The first scheduled payment to local government was due in December.
Instead, that payment was withheld due to concerns over the local board that was created to accept and distribute the cash, the Local Revenue Sharing Board.

A new compact unveiled this week seeks to address the concerns by making changes to the board, but some say that won’t happen quickly.

“It’s not something that means there’s going to be money tomorrow or in the next week or anything,” said Roland Oselka, who is the New Buffalo Township Clerk, and a member of the Local Revenue Sharing Board.

“It could still be a little while before the money starts rolling,” agreed Dr. Michael Lindley, Superintendent of the New Buffalo Schools.

For instance, the compact changes the three-member Local Revenue Sharing Board to a five member panel.

“I think it’s going to be more difficult when you have five people having to agree, and each one has a veto power on both the bylaws and the distribution formula,” said Oselka. “I think it’s hard enough to get three people to agree; now we have five.”

While the new compact makes clear that the New Buffalo School System stands to receive a payment equal to the amount of property taxes the casino would be required to pay, “you can only pay in lieu of taxes if you know what the taxable value of the property is, so there needs to be a process put in place,” according to Dr. Lindley. “Until that’s done, no distribution will take place.”

The scenario is one that Oselka finds discouraging. “Everybody welcomed the casino here, I think New Buffalo Township gave them as much support as they possibly could to come here and t hen to not get the funding that was promised to us, I think that’s created some ill will.”

Nonetheless, the Local Revenue Sharing Board will waste no time trying to free up the cash. A special meeting has been scheduled for Monday to go over the terms of the new compact line by line.

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