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Jefferson County officials fight loss of casino funds

MARTINSBURG – Jefferson County’s public schools could lose $525,000 in funding if a so-called “haircut bill” is passed by the West Virginia Legislature.

On Jan. 20, bills were introduced in the state House of Delegates and the state Senate at the request of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to reduce by 15 percent, or about $39 million, the amount of revenue from slot machines and table games generated at the state’s four racetrack casinos that is dedicated by state statute to racetrack purse funds, thoroughbred and greyhound development funds, counties, municipalities and the Jefferson County Board of Education.

“Jefferson County is the only county (board of education) that gets money directly from table games,” Gary Kable, president of the Jefferson County BOE, said in a telephone interview Monday.

In June 2007, a referendum to allow table games at Charles Town Races was defeated by Jefferson County voters.

One of the arguments opponents used against approving table games in Jefferson County was that no revenue from slot machines at the track directly went to the local schools. Gambling revenue did go to the state school board, which was distributed to school districts across the state.

State legislators reworked the bill to allow table games at Charles Town, giving more money to the Jefferson County Commission and the five municipalities in Jefferson County as well as the Jefferson County Board of Education.

In a December 2009 referendum, Jefferson County voters approved a second referendum to allow table games at Charles Town Races.

The first year table games were operational at the track, Jefferson County’s public schools received $3.9 million in monthly payments, Beth Marrone, Jefferson County Schools treasurer, said in a telephone interview Monday.

The second year, Jefferson County’s schools got $4.8 million; the third year, $4.6 million; and this year, Marrone projects the schools will get $3.5 million.

“The money is used for capital improvements, bricks and mortar – it has been a tremendous benefit,” she said…

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