The city of Danville expects to receive $12.1 million in revenue in its next fiscal year from the soon-to-open Caesars Virginia casino resort development, and a new city budget proposal recommends spending some of the new money on schools and economic development initiatives.
The city has a performance agreement with Caesars that requires a $5 million minimum payment per year as long as the casino operates, City Manager Ken Larking said at a Tuesday briefing on the proposed budget. This upcoming year, the amount will be prorated to $4.1 million.
Another $8 million in state-collected local gaming tax revenue is expected to come in over the next year from the temporary casino, which is scheduled to open this summer. The permanent casino will open in 2024.
Larking’s proposed budget recommends that this $12.1 million be spent on initiatives across the city that align with suggestions from the Investing in Danville Committee, which is composed of residents, stakeholders and community leaders.
“When it comes to casino revenues, if it’s not guaranteed, we need to be careful about how we use those funds,” Larking said.
These funds are typically for one-time projects, he said — expenditures that could be cut if necessary.
“We wouldn’t like to cut them, but it’s a possibility to cut those things and we could still provide basic city services even without that revenue,” Larking said.
His proposed budget recommends that of the $8 million in state-collected gaming tax revenue from the temporary casino, $2.8 million go toward economic development initiatives and $2.5 million to Danville Public Schools. Another $840,000 would go toward the police department headquarters, $800,000 for blight removal, about $467,000 for gang prevention programming, almost $252,000 for summer internship programming, $105,000 to complete the Plan Danville effort, and $96,000 for rental inspection districts.
“The goal for the Investing in Danville Committee recommendations is that, when we make investments in things like this, it likely will produce long-term sustainable revenue sources,” Larking said.
For example, investing in economic development and education can create jobs and businesses, and result in young people staying in the area, or returning to Danville after college, he said.
The $4.1 million from Caesars, meanwhile, would “be used for general governmental operations, the cost of which is increasing due to inflation and rising personnel costs, including health care and salaries and wages,” a release from the city says.
As far as expenditures, these personnel costs were the biggest challenge in creating this budget, Larking said.
The proposed budget includes $1.5 million allocated for health insurance, another $1.5 million for pay-for-performance increases and $1.3 million to implement results of a city pay study, which is expected to be complete by the end of March.
The total proposed budget is just over $322 million, a 13% increase from last year’s budget of just over $285 million.
The theme for this year’s budget is “Investing in our Young People,” Larking said. Included is funding for lifelong learning, investments in education and workforce development, quality of life amenities, economic opportunities and infrastructure.
Overall, the proposed budget calls for more than $4.4 million for economic development projects and initiatives, and a net $553,276 increase to the operational budget for education.
The major revenue increases in the proposed budget, in addition to the $12.1 million in casino gaming revenue, include $200,000 in real estate taxes, about $1.3 million in meal taxes, about $506,000 in personal property taxes, about $442,000 in hotel taxes and almost $438,000 in additional sales taxes.
Larking also recommends investments in the Danville Regional Airport, which he said he believes will see increased business and tourism traffic due to the casino.
“This will be the first year we will have probably hundreds of thousands of visitors coming into our community,” he said.
The budget recommends about $664,000 for a fuel farm expansion, $350,000 for roof repairs on the terminal building and $4.1 million to rehabilitate the airport’s south ramp.
Larking presented the budget to the Danville City Council on Tuesday evening. The council has until April 30 to make changes. The pay study will likely call for some adjustments to his proposal, Larking said.
“Ultimately, what we’re trying to do when we put a budget together and recommend it is we want to create a community that everyone can call home,” Larking said.