It was too much money spread over too long a time for state officials not to break open the piggy bank.
It was supposed to be a 50-year deal to help Niagara Falls and other communities impacted by the hydroelectric dam on the Niagara River.
Instead, it's becoming a future revenue source that state officials have found they can spend today.
And they're using it as a Band-Aid to financial problems in Niagara Falls the state had a hand in creating.
Talk about a typical Albany solution.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week touted a deal to advance payments from the New York Power Authority to Niagara Falls as the state “stepping up” to provide fiscal stability in the Falls.
But it's the state's actions in its dispute with the Seneca Nation that helped create the mess that left the Falls scrambling when money from the Seneca Niagara Casino dried up.
The state blames the Senecas for refusing to pay the slots revenue. The Senecas claim their exclusive rights to run casinos were violated.
Niagara Falls, meanwhile, is stuck in the middle, with little say over the matter and projects it planned to pay for with casino cash piling up.
Backed into a financial corner, Mayor Paul Dyster and the City Council have been calling for help. That's where the New York Power Authority comes in.
The Falls – along with other communities – negotiated a 50-year settlement in 2007 that allowed the state agency to relicense its Niagara River power project. The city gets low-cost power, money for greenway improvements and annual payments of $850,000.
Under the deal approved Friday, the Power Authority will advance those future payments to the city in a lump sum of $13.45 million. The one-time revenue is supposed to help the city until arbitration puts an end to the dispute between the Senecas and the state.
The hope is casino revenue will flow again, the Falls can return the money and resume its annual payments. Before the lump sum, the city was owed 44 more payments totaling $37.4 million.
City officials believe the long-term payments might be worth more once they're out of the current financial bind.
Here's why: The Power Authority calculates what the future payments are worth today based on a 2007 formula. But interest rates have since changed.
There's a clue they might be right. State parks officials had also sought an advance for projects at Niagara Falls State Park. But the state agency found that borrowing money was a better deal today than taking the advance.
You might wonder why the Falls uses casino revenue in its budget. Some pays for the cost of having a casino. But a large chunk of that money is used to pay debt on a new public safety building. Who pressured the city into replacing its aging courthouse and police station or risk losing millions of dollars in budget aid?