Mayors proposal: $80 million over 10 years for future neighborhood funding

While the current form of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) is nearing its end, neighborhoods still can expect to have about $80 million over 10 years to be devoted to them. That is, if not much changes from Mayor R.T. Rybak’s 2009 recommended budget, which he is expected to present to the City Council on Thursday.

Rybak today unveiled his proposal for the future of NRP, which currently is funded through 2009.

Because of action taken this year by the state Legislature, tax districts that fund the current form of NRP have been tweaked, and millions in state and county taxes no longer will subsidize the program after 2009. However, the Legislature did OK the use of money collected annually from new tax districts to fund neighborhoods, along with paying down $100 million in debt remaining on the Target Center.

Those new tax districts would not begin generating money until 2011, though. To fill the two-year gap, Rybak is proposing spending $500,000 a year from the city’s general fund in 2009 and 2010. Without that transitional money, he said, some neighborhoods probably would begin to restructure, only to have to rebuild when new neighborhood money comes in after 2011.

Rybak’s proposal also includes the creation of a new neighborhood fund — with dedicated funds to neighborhood organizations that would be divvied up similarly to the current NRP system — and a community innovation fund, which would involve a competitive bidding process.

As for how the new neighborhood program would be structured, Rybak’s proposal doesn’t deviate much from the recommendations of the NRP Work Group. It would set up a Department of Neighborhood and Community Relations, which would oversee the program; directly assist and guide neighborhood groups; and coordinate a Neighborhood and Community Advisory Board, made up of Minneapolis residents who will help guide the work of the department and the program.

“There’s a tremendous need for us to give a clear signal [neighborhoods] of where to go,” Rybak said, which is why he said he decided to highlight his NRP recommendations separate from his recommended budget proposal.

The Council has set a target date of Sept. 12 to act on the NRP Work Group’s recommendations, said Jennifer LaStoka, the city’s NRP project coordinator. Citizens can voice their opinions to the Work Group at 5 p.m. Aug. 20 in Council Chambers, Room 317 of City Hall.