City should think big in casino funds

Published 12:09 am Tuesday, May 15, 2018

For more than five years, the City of Natchez has received a hard-fought gift of more than $1 million.

Unfortunately, the city has spent the money from its lease with the owners of the Magnolia Bluffs Casino with a shotgun approach.

The city has received well more than $5 million — the lease is a minimum of $1 million per year and is tied to the casino’s revenue. But aside from several small projects and uses that should arguably be paid for from the city’s general fund, the city doesn’t really have much to show for the extra funds.

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Had it chosen to do so, the city could have single-handedly built a state-of-the-art recreation complex with the funds the casino lease created, or built an amazing park and amphitheater on the bluff, endowed a Natchez history museum or a myriad of other “big idea” projects.

Those sorts of projects would be generational, game-changing.

Instead, the city has focused small often using the casino funds to simply shore up the city’s operating budget. Rather than viewing the windfall as special, it’s become routine money.

A large chunk of this year’s tax payment is going to an important, but mundane task of restriping city roadways.

The city has made some strides, focusing on trying to put $100,000 into a rainy day fund and that’s a great move, but that’s only a fraction of what the city has received from the use of the city-owned land. We would hope that in the next five years the city could find another capstone project and focus on applying the casino revenue to something more permanent.