Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

May 21, 2014

Editorial: Brown Bridge ballot issue still begs big question

Voters are going to have their hands full this fall, and Traverse City voters just got more homework.

The city commission agreed Monday to ask voters in November to divert $3 million from the Brown Bridge Trust Fund for capital projects in Traverse City parks over the next five years.

The city hopes to double up the $3 million by stipulating that city officials must secure matching funds for any parks improvements that receive trust fund dollars.

That’s a new wrinkle in the ongoing debate over tapping the trust fund and possibly makes the issue more appealing to voters.

But the central issue remains: Is there a compelling project — or more than one — out there that would justify dipping into the trust fund and does it make sense in the long run to cap the fund and siphon off more of any excess to the city’s general fund?

Right now about $250,000 a year from the trust fund goes into the city general fund. The ballot proposal would cap the $13 million trust fund at $12.5 million and set aside $500,000, plus five years of royalty payments, toward city parks. Interest generated beyond the cap would likely end up in the general fund.

Voters in November will be choosing a U.S. Senator, the governor, every seat in the U.S. and Michigan House of Representatives and the Michigan Senate, some local judicial seats, some members of the Northwestern Michigan College board and a few ballot measures. And now the Brown Bridge issue.

That’s a lot of decisions, so start thinking.

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