In Washington, the Puyallup Tribe Of Indians has refused to make its annual contribution of $850,000 to the small city of Fife after local officials failed to enumerate the costs of serving the tribe’s Emerald Queen Hotel And Casino with police, fire and transportation services.
The Puyallup Tribe Of Indians has been making the yearly payments to the city of just over 9,000 residents since 2004 after purchasing the area’s largest hotel, removing the property from the tax rolls and converting it into a 35,000 sq ft tribal casino offering almost 1,500 slots.
According to a report from The News Tribune newspaper, a committee consisting of tribal members and local government representatives is in charge of allocating 2% of the Puyallup Tribe Of Indians’ tax-exempt annual gaming revenues to local communities. However, this year the group recommended no contribution to Fife unless the city specifically listed its costs for serving the Emerald Queen Hotel And Casino.
John Weymer, spokesperson for the Puyallup Tribe Of Indians, told the newspaper that demand for a portion of the tribe’s gaming revenues has grown to the extent that the group must now be more selective about distributing funds. He stated that the casino operator is attempting to ensure that the any money handed over is specifically to reimburse local governments for services associated with the casino.
“If the truth be told, the impact of the casinos on local governments wasn’t nearly as much as they feared,” Weymer told the newspaper. “In fact, because of the jobs they have created and the business they’ve attracted, they’ve been a positive impact on the communities.”
The Puyallup Tribe Of Indians, which additionally operates the Emerald Queen Casino I-5 in nearby Tacoma, also revealed that it will not be handing over $1.926 million to help Fife improve Pacific Highway East near the casino but intends to continue making charitable contributions that have aided community projects such as a renovation of the Fife municipal pool.
In response, Subir Mukerjee, City Manager for Fife, maintains the 2004 agreement the tribe signed requires an automatic contribution without the need for any specific itemization of costs while revealing that no specific talks on the matter had yet been scheduled.
Mukerjee explained that the potential loss of tribal funding could be cushioned in the short term by higher-than-expected sales tax collections amounting to more than $900,000 due to a rebound in business at the city’s numerous automobile dealerships. But, he noted that more draconian measures, which could include cutting programs and eliminating capital projects, may be necessary to balance next year’s budget.
The official declared that he was surprised the tribe had declined to help fund the highway upgrade, which was designed to add a turn lane and sidewalks, while Fife may now be forced to scale back the project.
“It directly benefits the casino,” Mukerjee told The News Tribune. “We asked the tribe for less than a third of the project costs.”
Winston Marsh, Mayor for Fife, has refused to talk specifically about the denied funding request but proclaimed that the city greatly values its relation with the Puyallup Tribe Of Indians.
“We’d rather not comment about the money now,” Marsh told the newspaper. “We’re hoping for a good outcome.”
For his part, Mukerjee revealed that the city had yet to consider how to enforce the 2004 agreement if friendly talks do not produce a mutually agreeable result.
“We’ll deal with that if the time comes,” said Mukerjee.