On Tuesday, the Seneca County Board of Supervisors held their monthly meeting for May. It was a short session, with the focus on on-going issues around Indian affairs in Seneca County.
Chairman Bob Shipley (R-Waterloo) thanked Seneca County’s state representatives for supporting the County’s efforts with the on-going legal battle between them and the Cayuga Indian Nation. “I want to thank our federal representatives: Senator Chuck Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Tom Reed for again sending letters to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in support of Seneca County,” he said.
The Cayuga Indian Nation applied to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2005 to take more than 129 acres of Seneca & Cayuga County land into “trust” on the tribe’s behalf. This action would have allowed for the properties to be removed from the tax rolls on a permanent basis. “The Department of the Interior acknowledged that the Cayuga Indian Tribe wants the Land-into-Trust for “Gaming Purposes.” Seneca County, along with our neighbors in Cayuga County, have vigorously opposed this application since it was first submitted. We continue to do so to this day,” Shipley added.
The Chairman called it ‘unconscionable’ that the BIA would choose to ‘ignore’ the many short-comings in the Cayuga Indian’s land-into-trust application. “But, just in case, our county has asked for a reasonable extension to address the litany of errors in the document,” he continued.
Shipley added, “For starters, the Environmental Impact Statement being used by the Cayuga Indians is now 12 years old – nearly old enough to drive. Surely – this document would need to be updated. Also, the state’s gaming landscape has dramatically changed since the original application was filed by the Cayuga Indians seeking their own gaming interests. The addition of more Indian casinos and four private casinos, negotiated by Governor Cuomo, has, at the very least, created new competitive challenges for all those in the arena.”
He said the most-troubling aspect of the entire set of circumstances was the impact it could have on local schools and taxpayers. “Unilateral action by the BIA would significantly harm our state and local residents. School districts – the biggest beneficiary of gaming revenues – would be disadvantaged. Taxpayers would certainly be disadvantaged, as the CIN has repeatedly refused to pay all property and use taxes,” Shipley said.
He said it’s first among a long list of issues that taxpayers in Seneca County are left with. “These are just some of the many challenges facing our local government with regards to this issue. Given the significant negative ramifications of placing land into Federal Trust, it is critically important that we all work together to find a method to eliminate this potential threat and hold harmless our local taxpayers,” Chairman Shipley concluded.