UTICA — A fresh start.

That is what Oneida County officials want when renegotiating an agreement that gives some municipalities and school districts a portion of the Oneida Indian Nation gaming revenue collected by the county.

The funding in question is part of the revenue Oneida County receives through a 2013 land-into-trust agreement and legal settlement among the Nation, state and Oneida and Madison counties. It was shared with four municipalities and four school districts that stood to lose tax revenue as a result.

Earlier this year, three towns not included in the original agreement expressed interest in getting a share, and, to that end, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. suggested zeroing out the revenue due to each municipality next year as part of his proposed 2019 budget.

Now, the school district funding also could be in limbo.

The Ways and Means Committee of the Oneida County Board of Legislators approved an amendment to Picente's budget proposal that would also defund the school districts. If the budget passes, more than $1 million — including approximately $911,000 for Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Central School District — could sit in a contingency fund pending a renegotiated revenue-sharing agreement.

"It gives us the ability to start fresh and rebalance things in a better way," Legislator Edward Welsh said Wednesday in voting for the amendment.

The school districts covered by this agreement are Vernon-Verona-Sherrill, Oneida City School District, Madison Central School District and Stockbridge Valley Central School District. Requests for comment from the superintendents of each district were not returned Thursday.

Under the current agreement, the funding for each municipality and school district is allocated with a per-capita formula — one, Picente says, that would be unworkable when taking the other three municipalities into account. The money paid out by the county through this agreement has been on a quarterly basis, according to the county executive's office.

Whatever new agreement renegotiations lead to will have to go before the Board of Legislators for approval.

At the committee meeting Wednesday, legislators dispersed into political caucuses — which are exempt from Open Meetings Law — to discuss the budget amendments behind closed doors for approximately 40 minutes.

After the public discussion resumed, those present voted unanimously to zero out the school district funding. The full Board of Legislators is expected to vote Wednesday to finalize the budget.

Here is how several qualified their votes:

Majority Leader George Joseph, R-10: "For renegotiation, we have to defund it. The county executive defunded the money that went to the towns, and it just seemed fitting that we defund the school district and then give the opportunity to the county executive to renegotiate and come with parity at deciding where we go forward from here. It essentially created a pool."

Minority Leader Philip Sacco, D-9: "It's a very difficult decision. I'm going to vote to defund for the simple reason that the way it stands would be lopsided towards one entity and seven municipalities would be in harm's way. I think the sensible thing is everybody can get something, which is better than nothing and hopefully it will improve in the future."

Colin Idzi, R-2: "It's not an easy decision for me to defund two of the schools that lay within my district in the town of Augusta, whether it's land they have in the town of Augusta or kids go to school there. It's very hard for me to vote against funding these two lines, but I know that if I vote against this, it's going to affect the town of Augusta getting any revenue-sharing money going forward. I don't want to affect that with hopes that we can keep something in the budget for Madison Central School and Stockbridge Valley School."

Welsh, R-19: "I would add that all of you that have schools in these districts and towns ... be part of the discussion. Make sure you talk to your people back in your towns. Make sure you talk to the administration here. The idea here is to abolish a contract that's somewhat, we'll just say, out of balance. It gives us the ability to start fresh and rebalance things in a better way. I would encourage everybody that their municipality takes part in the funding of this, make sure you have a seat at the table to talk about it."

Oneida County revenue sharing numbers
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Contact reporter Greg Mason at 315-792-5074 or follow him on Twitter (@OD_Mason).