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Lincoln budget reaps benefits from casino

October 20, 2013

LINCOLN — Town Administrator T. Joseph Almond has begun working on projections for the coming fiscal year, and for now at least it appears the town will not be seeing a decline in its Twin River revenues.

In fact, the creation of Twin River’s live table gaming venue at the casino has apparently generated some additional interest in the video lottery terminals (electronic games) from which Lincoln receives a share of the revenues, he noted.

“We are up about 2 percent to 2 and an 1/8 percent,” Almond noted. “That is good news because our local worry was that the table games might take away revenue from video lottery terminals (VLTs).”

The other good news from Twin River for the coming fiscal year is that the expanded gaming operation has also increased business at the casino’s food service and liquor venues, and that is translating into an increase in beverage and food tax and sales tax revenues the town also receives from Twin River.

The increases, of course, come before Twin River runs into competition from three planned casinos and a slot parlor operation next door in Massachusetts, but Almond said the town is already planning for what could be a 20 to 30 percent reduction in its Twin River revenues when that competition ramps up in two years.

While collecting more than $7 million annually from Twin River in recent years, the town opted to limit its use of that revenue in local budget spending to a set $5.2 million each year. The remaining funding has been directed to special capital improvement projects and non-operating budget expenses that have improved town facilities and equipment.

The town’s approach to spending Twin River reveune will give it the option of going back to relying on just the $5.2 million share, the level of revenue it received in 2008, when competition does surface, he noted.

The capital improvements already taken on with the help of the town’s bonus capital revenue have included a $690,000 addition to Lincoln Public Library, of which the town contributed $400,000; a $2.2 million investment in technology in conjunction with the School Department two years ago; a portion of the planned improvements for the Police Department’s headquarters in the Town Hall Building; and also a portion of the costs of updating Lime Acres Park, off Jenckes Hill Road near the middle school, and other local park improvements.

The funding has also allowed the town to give the School Department about $500,000 annually for capital improvement projects for the past five years, and also to spend approximately $850,000 annually on road improvements, Almond said. Approximately $14 million has been spent on local capital project over past five years, he noted.

At the same time, the town has also held the line on tax increases in support of its $74 million annual town budget, seeing a 1 percent increase last year while also retaining a portion of the excise tax exemption for motor vehicle taxes cut by the state. The town has also tightened town staffing in recent years in light of the loss of state revenue it has experienced during the economic downturn. Even with its Twin River revenue, Lincoln is not immune from the state’s economic trends, but it does help, according to Almond.

“It allows us to do a lot of things that would not have been done unless we went out to bond or raised taxes,” he said. The investment in the town’s facilities and infrastructure has also had an impact on giving the town a AA bond rating from both the Fitch and Moody’s municipal bond rating agencies.

The outlook for the coming year is good for all of those factors, but Almond said it takes a combined effort between the administration, the Town Council and the Budget Board to maintain that forecast for the town’s finances.

The council members have taken a similar view and “have supported good policies” while avoiding political-based decision making, he said.
“In these economic times, we are not going to do something unless we have to,” he said.

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