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Town looks at revenue sources

By Staff | Mar 13, 2015

As sources of revenue decrease the Shepherdstown government has begun to brainstorm new avenues with which to garner funds.

During discussion at January’s regular finance committee meeting and last month’s town council meeting, members considered the consequences of a recent decrease in both video lottery funds and table games money allocated to the town.

In an interview Wednesday, Mayor Auxer explained that video lottery funds have decreased by 30 percent in the last year and hed estimate table game monies are down 10 to 12 percent.

In January for example, Shepherdstown received approximately $12,000 in table games funds.

Auxer said that’s a decrease from last year.

“We have to look at other sources of revenue,” he said.

Many anticipated that competition from recently opened casinos in Maryland would create competition for customers for local gambling arenas like Charles Town’s Hollywood Casino and Race Track.

In December 2009, the Corporation annexed 13 acres of Shepherd University’s west campus in order to help bolster population numbers for the town.

The 11 annexed dormitories increased the town’s population by more than 600 people, enabling the corporation to remain eligible for its state allocated share of video lottery monies.

Both video lottery money and table games money are distributed to municipalities based on the population size, though the process for each is different.

Presently, Auxer said the town needs to better position itself ahead of the 2020 census.

“That’s only five years away,” he said.

He said that as revenue numbers have decreased, the cost of doing business for the town continues to increase.

“Everything’s going up. Gas, oil, equipment, insurance,” he said.

Annexation of commercial property and areas seeking to develop commercially remains one of the town’s most viable options as it increases tax revenue.

At Tuesday’s Town Council meeting Auxer noted that the ongoing Rumsey Green project is one example of this.

Annexation is already seen as favorable in the eyes of the public as demonstrated in its inclusion in Shepherdstown’s 2014 comprehensive plan.

“Our comprehensive plan calls for that,” he said.

Auxer said the town prefers not to use video lottery funds as part of the corporation’s operating budget because of its instability, but that’s become difficult to avoid.

According to minutes from the January finance committee meeting, $215,000 of video lottery money is used for operating expenses. They received $375,00 total in the last fiscal year.

Auxer said alternatives are limited.

Other municipalities in the region like Martinsburg and Charles Town have a Business and Occupation (B&O) tax as a revenue stream, but the mayor said Shepherdstown won’t consider adopting one.

“We’ve chosen not to do that because it puts a burden on the businesses,” he said.

The Corporation will continue to evaluate the issue in future finance committee meetings, as the Town Council continues to discuss the best practices for implementing annexation.

The next finance committee meeting will be held Friday, March 27 at town hall.