(decorahnews.com has gotten several reader questions about the Trout Run Trail financing, including "How much money have both the county and city allocated to the Trout Run Trail?" "Does the money spent on the Trout Run Trail come from grants or does it come out of the city and county budgets?" and "Has the money spent on the Trout Run Trail increased local property taxes?"
Because of that, we feel it's time to point out what a huge bargain the Trout Run Trail has been. When all the work is completed in the summer of 2012, the Trout Run Trail should have a price tag of around $7 million. A report last Tuesday by the group raising money for the project pointed out that over $4 MILLION in state and federal grants has been obtained for the project.
Where has the rest of the money come from? The Trails of Winneshiek group has raised at least $1.5 MILLION in donations. Hotel-motel taxes, which generally are paid by out-of-town residents, resulted in another $1 million.
OK, you're still saying to yourself, "That's fine, but is it increasing my property taxes?" Officials estimate there's another $3,088,906 in spending necessary to complete the entire project, but $2,836,841 of that has already been raised. That means there's just $252,064 left to be raised. Trout Run Trail supporters continue their efforts to raise money. But even if, under a worst-case scenario, none of this money was raised, $252,064 represents around three percent of the total cost of this $7 million project.
To this point, not a penny in additional City of Decorah property taxes has been required.
The Winneshiek County financing has been a little more complicated. The new Siewers Springs Bridge built in 2008 at a cost of $745,000 was scheduled to be built anyway, but probably was 20 percent more expensive because it included a bike lane on the eastern side of the bridge. But the project qualified for 80 percent state funding, so local property tax payers picked up around $30,000 of the cost of the bike lane. Winneshiek County contributed $60,000 to Trout Run Trail through the Winneshiek Conservation Commission, but that was a pass-through on a CAT Grant. The county moved the former Happy Hollow Road bridge to a spot on the bike trail, but the bridge was an historic bridge and had to be moved somewhere else. The county also got a $65,000 grant towards the $90,000 project. Finally, the county paid $282,000 to put in a box culvert on Middle Calmar Road. However, the funds did not come out of the county's general road fund.
Finally, there have been questions about the costs of maintaining Trout Run Trail. Yes, the questions of what those costs will be and who will have to pay them still have to be determined, but the area is getting a multi-million dollar economic impact virtually for free. Fixating on these costs is like being given a Mercedes--and worrying about the cost of a gallon of gas!
However, to explain further how maintenance costs will be paid upon completion of the trail—25 percent of future hotel/motel tax collections will be set aside for trail maintenance. The hope is that the Trout Run Trail will draw additional visitors to Decorah, so the amount of hotel/motel taxes collected will increase. The hope also is that additional visitors will pay additional sales taxes--money which the City of Decorah uses exclusively for street improvements.
To summarize, Trout Run Trail is an incredible financial windfall for the Decorah area!