Tax bill includes funding for neighborhoods

A small part of the omnibus tax bill that will soon be in front of Gov. Tim Pawlenty includes provisions to fund something similar to Minneapolis’ Neighborhood Revitalization Program, but slightly different.

"[State legislators] haven’t specified a program, they have specified a purpose for which the dollars would be spent for neighborhoods," said Council Member Betsy Hodges (13th Ward).

Under the proposal, neighborhood revitalization programming would be funded by "transformation districts," which used the same properties as a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district. The city currently funds NRP via 15 TIF districts known as the Common Project. Incremental yearly increases in property taxes are currently captured and distributed to neighborhoods to fund housing, police, arts and other activities.

However, these districts expire in 2009. Under the current wording in the bill, the Common Project would be decertified, and another TIF district would be established in its place, producing neighborhood funding for another decade. The city could also use the money to pay off outstanding Target Center debt.

NRP Executive Director Bob Miller said the proposed legislation is too vague to ensure long-term funding solutions for neighborhoods.

"I don’t think this is a very good solution," Miller said. "Some folks would interpret that as NRP; I would not."

Miller said that the great thing about NRP is that it ensures funding not just today, but also years from now.

"You could count on resources to implement programming," Miller said. "I don’t see this in that bill."

Hodges said she thought the current incarnation of neighborhood funding had a better chance of passing because it was Minneapolis-specific and wouldn’t affect other cities’ Local Government Aid (LGA) or Fiscal Disparities Pool.

"Though, the odds makers in Las Vegas have as much information about that as I do," said Hodges, chair of the City Council’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee. "I would say because the impact is only on the city of Minneapolis itself it has a much better chance of surviving negotiations or vetoes."

Once the Legislature passes a measure and submits it to Gov. Pawlenty, he has three days to sign or veto it. The Legislature’s constitutional deadline for adjournment is Monday.