Danville and Pittsylvania County would share tax revenues from a casino in the city if a state Senate version of casino legislation passes.
At least three Danville City Councilmen are not happy with the amendment to Senate bill 1126.
Councilman Fred Shanks said he does not see where the county would be sharing any costs with the city if a casino is built. While a supporter of regional cooperation with the county, Shanks said Danville would bear the costs for infrastructure and added public safety.
“I fail to see where that’s fair and appropriate to the city’s taxpayers,” Shanks said of the proposed split Tuesday afternoon.
But Danville Mayor Alonzo Jones said he had no problem with the proposed revenue-sharing amendment, pointing out the regional cooperation between the city and the county on economic development projects.
“There are a lot of people in Pittsylvania County that work in Danville,” Jones said. “The way I see it, we’re in it together.”
A substitute amendment proposed by the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology calls for a 10-percent wagering tax imposed on gross receipts received from games in a casino. Half of that amount would go to the state, while the remainder would stay in the locality with 60 percent going to Danville and 40 percent to Pittsylvania County.
The casino bill would legalize casinos in cities where the unemployment rate was at least five percent in November 2017, the poverty rate was at least 20 percent in 2016, and there was a population decrease of at least 20 percent from 1990 to 2016.
Danville meets those criteria.
The Senate bill will come up for a vote in the Finance Committee on Wednesday. There is also a separate House bill that does not have a split between the city and the county.
City Councilman Adam Tomer said the 60/40 split is “way too high” and that the county doesn’t meet the criteria that Danville does to have a casino there.
“You’re giving them free money without all the costs associated with it,” Tomer said. “Why are they getting almost half of the money if they don’t meet the parameters of getting a casino?”
Danville City Council voted unanimously Jan. 3 to adopt a resolution supporting legislation in the 2019 General Assembly session that would enable and require a local referendum on construction of a casino resort in Danville and other cities. Casinos are currently illegal in Virginia.
Tomer said he was unsure if he would have voted for the resolution if he knew there would be a proposed revenue-sharing requirement in the legislation.
Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors Chairman Joe Davis said the money would be great for the county, which needs funding for education and public safety.
“It would help our coffers to support the schools as well as law enforcement,” Davis said, adding, however, that he was concerned about a possible increase in crime if a casino comes to the city.
The fact that some city councilmen are upset about possibly having to share tax revenue is understandable, he said.
“I can understand how Danville would have reservations about that,” Davis said.
Of the respective percentages of tax revenues going to Danville and Pittsylvania County, 60 percent would go toward K-12 public education and 40 percent would go to public safety in each locality.
Calling the overall 60/40 share between the city and county “a little excessive,” Vice Mayor Lee Vogler said he was not sure why the county would “get close to an even split.” City voters would be deciding whether to have the casino and the casino would be in the city, he pointed out.
“There could be a better arrangement there,” Vogler said, referring to the 60/40 proposal.
Jones said he hoped for a joint City Council-Board of Supervisors meeting soon to discuss the issue and other matters.
A 75/25 split would be more reasonable, Vogler said.
“I could certainly live with that,” he said.
Shanks said if the county does end up paying any costs of having a casino, he would like to know so local officials could put a number and percentage on it.
Councilman Gary Miller pointed to the city and county working together on past projects, so why not this one, he said.
“We try to do these things together,” he said. “Ideally, I’d like to have their strong support. Our main concern is to get this done and benefit the whole region.”