New Funding Levels Well Below Association’s Minimum Operating Expenses: In February, the City’s Neighborhood and Community Relations (NCR) department published for public comments a plan for funding neighborhoods, Neighborhoods 2020. The bottom line for the Lynnhurst Neighborhood Association (LYNAS): Over the course of 2020 to 2023, the funding available to our association will be reduced from approximately $32,000 this year to approximately $12,000 in 2023 and forward.
Lynnhurst is not alone facing this sharply reduced level of funding. Some other Minneapolis neighborhoods will see similar amounts, while yet others will receive significantly higher annual funding. The funding recommendations aim to rectify an inequitable distribution of previous city housing funds given to neighborhoods, the conclusion of a study done by the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, discussed further later in this article.
The current LYNAS Board believes more funding should go to neighborhoods with higher needs, but the process for this should be fully transparent and all neighborhoods should receive the minimum funding necessary to maintain basic operations, events and outreach. For Lynnhurst, with one part-time staff person and relying on many volunteer hours, that annual amount is around $30,000. We will give this feedback to NCR, and individual citizen comments are also welcome.
City’s Money Supports All Our Association’s Activities through a Part-time Staff Person: Currently, LYNAS uses about 60% of our city funding to pay a part time Neighborhood Coordinator for 10 hours/week. The remainder is used for this newsletter, other neighborhood communications, our events and a few small administrative expenses. Our Coordinator provides essential support to the association in several critical areas. She handles the complicated contracts we have with the city for LYNAS programs that use Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) money, such as our home improvement loans, park upgrades and grants for Clean Water Yards and Gardens and business façades. (The NRP has ended, but Lynnhurst has remaining funds from the program we continue to use.) She also plans and coordinates the details for multiple neighborhood events – the Summer Festival, Ice Cream Social, and Annual Meeting at neighborhood restaurants are examples – and further contributes by managing and updating communications via our website, newsletter, and social media. Our capacity to successfully implement these programs, events and outreach would be substantially reduced without this staff person.
How the Funding Will be Distributed: The city’s funding will now be distributed through two program strategies, the Network Fund and the Equitable Engagement Fund. The Network Fund provides a base funding level, and this ramps down from $32,000 this year (for Lynnhurst) to $10,000 per year from 2023 forward for every neighborhood in the city.
However, funding from the other account, the Equitable Engagement Fund, will vary widely from one neighborhood to the next. Lynnhurst’s Equitable Engagement amount over the three year period and forward is around $2,000 per year, so our total annual funding for 2023-forward will be the Network base plus Equitable Engagement, totaling about $12,000. Some other neighborhoods will receive $1,400 to $138,000 annually from Equitable Engagement in addition to their Network base.
Why is Lynnhurst’s Equitable Engagement Funding Lower? The Equitable Engagement Fund will be distributed based on a study done by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA.) CURA’s study determined that under the now-ended NRP program, money was not allocated equitably by race or income, with lower-income, higher-minority neighborhoods getting less than their fair share. They developed a formula that attempts to rectify that by providing more funding to neighborhoods with larger minority populations combined with factors for “Areas of Concentrated Poverty,” “Gentrification,” and “Cost-Burdened Households,” which measures households spending 30% or more of their income on housing. Lynnhurst ranks low on all these metrics compared to some other city neighborhoods. Property taxes paid or other parameters that could give Lynnhurst a higher ranking are not factors in the distribution formula.
Our Initial Response – Active Neighborhood Associations Support Strong Cities: LYNAS is fully aware that other neighborhoods have many significant issues and greater needs than Lynnhurst and is fully supportive of them receiving more public funding. That said, we would like to see changes to both the process and the proposal -
The CURA study that determined NRP funds were inequitably distributed was disputed by a former NRP employee with a deep knowledge of how those funds were used. That employee did a detailed analysis to support his position. The City Council voted 7-to-6 to not hear a presentation on that analysis. Our Councilmember, Linea Palmisano, voted to hear the presentation. By choosing to ignore reputable data that contradicts an established position, the Council has created doubt about its objectivity and fairness. We believe the Council should provide an explanation for that vote and a detailed rebuttal of the data that says NRP’s distribution was equitable.
Higher Minimum Funding for All Neighborhoods
Minneapolis’s Neighborhood Revitalization Program’s core premise was that active, empowered neighborhood organizations support vibrant neighborhoods and strong cities. If that’s still true, we believe every neighborhood organization across the socioeconomic spectrum deserves the minimum funding necessary for their basic functions. That minimum has been estimated at around $30,000 annually for Lynnhurst and neighborhoods similar to ours that rely heavily on volunteers and utilize part-time staff.
What Do You Think? Both the City and LYNAS are asking for your opinions on the proposed funding plan. A link to the full plan can be found on our website: lynnhurst.org
Any individual can email the Neighborhoods and Community Relations department with their feedback at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can email the Lynnhurst Neighborhood Association at: email@example.com. LYNAS will be submitting a response from the Association.
Citizen input on the proposed funding plan must be submitted to NCR by July 14, 2020.