Posted on

Towns’ riverboat allotment plan approved

The Harrison County Council Monday night finally decided upon a formula to divide riverboat gaming funds among the county’s 10 incorporated towns, after nearly two months of discussions.
The proposal decided upon gives each town $31,000, unless that amount is more than the town received previously (Laconia and New Amsterdam at just less than $21,000) and the remainder of the money will be split by population from the 2010 Census.
Each year, the county receives a capped amount of revenue of just more than $23.2 million. Three percent of that, almost $700,000, is dispersed to towns.
The proposal was approved with a 4-3 vote with Councilmen Phil Smith, Gary Davis, Gordon Pendleton and Jim Heitkemper voting for the motion.
Councilman Chris Timberlake said in a previous meeting that he would not vote for any plan that would cut any of the towns’ revenue. Councilman Richard Gerdon also said he hated to see any of the towns lose funding.
‘That says I’m not going to consider population at all,’ Davis said.
Three towns ‘ Crandall, Elizabeth and Lanesville ‘ lose money with the proposal. Lanesville stands to lose the most funding with $11,118.37, and Crandall will lose $6,815 and Elizabeth $6,000.79.
Palmyra gained the most funding, just more than $9,000.
The council said the towns can approach the board to recoup the loss of funding for this year only. The riverboat agreements last from July 1 to June 30.
Before voting on the plan, the council gave town representatives an opportunity to speak to the board.
Cheri Banet, town manager of Palmyra, took the opportunity to reiterate the importance nationally of the 2010 Census, and said it should be used to allocate funding. She also said the fact that towns have riverboat funding saved up for projects should not be a negative against the town.
‘It’s irresponsible to spend it all in one year just to spend it,’ she said. ‘That’s one of the reasons the federal government is in the shape that it’s in … Send the money where the people are.’
Banet received a smattering of applause from some in the crowd when she concluded.
Davis said no one on the board faulted the towns for saving money for projects, but the goal of looking at savings was to see if the towns needed the riverboat funding for their operating expenses, which, he said, they do not.
Elizabeth town manager Hugh Burns, who had taken the opportunity to speak at two previous council meetings, again tried to relay the message of just how few dollars small towns receive in a year. He said he could raise taxes 100 percent and the town would still only receive an additional $3,000.
From 2000 to 2005, the county split the money equally among the towns, but, in 2005, it decided to factor in town population as the means for splitting the funds.
The proposal decided upon in 2005 ‘ and the one that’s been used each year since (the county has met its $23.2 million cap each year) ‘ was that of former councilwoman Rhonda Rhoads. The four largest towns received 70 percent of the funds split by percentage based roughly on population as follows: Corydon, 37 percent ($258,055; new plan, $260,070.17); Palmyra, 13 percent, ($90,668; new plan, $99,068.89); Lanesville, 12 percent ($83,693; new plan, $72,575.01); and Milltown (Harrison County side), 8 percent ($55,796; new plan, $58,309.08).
As for the smaller towns, Elizabeth and Crandall received 7 percent of the funds ($48,821; new plan for Elizabeth $42,820.35 and $42,005.15 for Crandall); New Middletown and Mauckport received 5 percent ($34,872; new plan for New Middletown $37,929.17 and $37,113.97 for Mauckport); and Laconia and New Amsterdam received 3 percent each ($20,923; new plan for Laconia $24,591.73 and $22,961.17 for New Amsterdam).
Davis said the 2005 plan was strictly arbitrary, without a formula specifically directed by population.