Schools, county get casino money

The Ohio Department of Taxation distributed nearly $68.7 million in casino taxes across the state in January, with Washington County receiving nearly $433,000.

In 2009, Ohio voters passed an amendment that allowed four casino facilities to be built. The first two casinos opened in May 2012. The Ohio Casino Control Commission licenses and regulates casino operators and the Ohio Department of Taxation is responsible for administering the gross casino revenue tax, which is 33 percent. Distributions of funds started in July 2012.

County distribution dates are quarterly on or before July 31, Oct. 31, Jan. 31 and April 30 while school district distribution dates are semi-annual on or before Jan. 31 and Aug. 31. The counties across the state have had seven distributions while the schools have had four.

Gary Gudmundson, communications director for the department of taxation, said the money is distributed based on population, both for schools and the counties, and have different time tables for distribution.

“The schools get half a year’s worth of revenue and the county distribution is quarterly,” he said.

He said this process is done because money for schools is distributed after the schools do a head count of the number of students. A school with a larger population of students will receive more money than those with significantly fewer students.

Washington County schools received $246,133.15. From there, the money is broken down into each school district, but not evenly as the distribution is based on population.

“There’s no strings attached,” Gudmundson said. “There’s no formula for the county having to share a certain percentage with other governmental bodies in the county…There’s no direction (given) as to how the money should be spent.”

Revenue for local schools has stayed relatively consistent through this year, even though the amount of total casino tax has decreased from $70.2 million to $68.7 million. Washington County schools received $232,791 at the last distribution around August 2013, as opposed to $246,133 at the January distribution.

According to the Ohio Department of Taxation, Belpre City Schools went from receiving a little more than $26,000 to $27,743; Marietta from $73,406 to $75,826; Fort Frye from $22,482 to $22,184; Frontier from $17,729 to $18,284; Warren Local from $56,632 to $58,648; and Wolf Creek from $16,748 to $16,651.

Warren, Frontier, Wolf Creek and Belpre put revenue into the general fund to support the operations of the school district. Treasurers for those districts budgeted for close to the amount received from the tax.

Calls to the Marietta and Fort Frye districts were not returned Friday.

Washington County Commission President Ron Feathers said the revenue from the casino tax is put into the county general fund.

He said revenue from the January deposit totaled $186,554.

“(The money) goes everywhere,” Feathers said. “Once it goes into county general, it helps offset the cost of everything.”

County Auditor Bill McFarland confirmed that the revenue is “co-mingled with all other general fund revenue” and wasn’t set aside for anything specific.

McFarland said that though the money coming in is substantial, higher amounts were lost with the phasing out of two kinds of property tax in the last two to three years, which totaled nearly $1 million worth of revenue.

“There was an accelerated phase out (of tangible personal property and public utility personal property taxes),” McFarland said, adding that the phase out was supposed to go through 2018.

“Things have happened in the last three to four years to make the balance sheet not so great,” he said, adding, “Sales tax is doing great and property tax is holding its own.”

McFarland said that though Ohio residents debate whether or not casinos and gambling are good or bad, the revenue generated from the casino tax is a good thing.

“It’s good we have it,” he said.