By Cindy Hoffman, Staff Writer
(Sept. 28, 2023) The Berlin TownCouncil and Mayor Zack Tyndall had preliminary discussions Monday evening on how to spend the casino revenue it received through the Local Impact Grant process. The Town of Berlin creates a multi-year plan for the funds.
The grants, which were created by the Maryland General Assembly to support communities affected by the advent of casino gambling at Ocean Downs in 2011, can only be used for specific things, including the police department.
This fiscal year, $366,000 was allocated to fund the Law Enforcement Officers Pension System (LEOPS), a retirement program for police officers.
Casino revenue grants can also be used for infrastructure improvements, facilities, sanitation, economic and community development and other public services and improvements.
Natalie Saleh, the financial director for the Town of Berlin, estimated that there will be $418,000 in casino funds for FY24.
“The first goal is to fund public safety,” Mayor Zack Tyndall said. “Our priority is LEOPS.”
Councilmember Steve Green suggested that the council scale back casino funds for LEOPs and have LEOPS be paid for out of general funds.
“Casino revenue is down and LEOPs will eventually have to become a general fund expense,” Green said.
Councilmember Jay Knerr agreed and suggested the council consider other projects such as a community center, sidewalks and paving on West Street and a public works building or an ambulance fund.
He suggested they protect LEOPS by slowly working it into the general budget.
“We are looking at this a little backwards. We need to fund LEOPs first, then if we have additional funds, consider other projects,” Tyndall said.
“We could say in a multi-year plan that our first goal is to fund public safety,” Tyndall said.
Councilmember Jack Orris suggested the council might want to host a public meeting to discuss this.
Tyndall said he will have a draft multi-year plan ready for the first meeting in October to be amended by the council.