Of all the places Traverse City could be running a deficit, the city marina likely wouldn’t top the list of suspects.
After all, it’s a place where those who can afford it live what looks like the good life during the summer months, having early morning coffee on the deck of their big cabin cruisers before heading out on the bay for some fishing or a day jaunt to Charlevoix. For most of us, it’s how the other half lives.
So it likely comes as an unpleasant shock to city taxpayers that the marina is costing them money. Though the city’s general fund doesn’t directly subsidize the marina, that’s really just a technicality. The marina owes the city $1.15 million right now and the marina’s $182,000 cash balance is evaporating.
The marina has posted a net operating loss of more than $182,000 for the past two years combined, and city officials expect more of the same for the next two fiscal years.
This situation was created by a decision made years ago that dictate who the city must rent slips to and how much it can charge for season-long slip rentals.
In 2002 and 2003 the city accepted a state grant to help rebuild the marina; that grant required the city to reserve half the marina’s 119 slips for transient, day-to-day use. While the city rents out all the seasonal slips it can at the maximum it can charge, many of the transient slips remain empty. With a 200-name waiting list for seasons slips, the city could rent everything it has to seasonal users and make money. But the state grant stands in the way.
Nearby Elmwood Township, by comparison, used state grant money for a single pier, and is sitting on an $800,000 marina surplus.