Money Pit, cont.

Burl Gilyard
City Pages - Cover Story - Vol 21, Issue 1016

May 24, 2000

Where Has All the Money Gone?

THOSE WHO CRAFTED Minneapolis's Neighborhood Revitalization Program likely never envisioned that four neighborhoods (East Calhoun, East Harriet, Linden Hills, and Lynnhurst) would collectively spend $16,800 for a collection of environmental tips called a "clean water cookbook." Nor would they probably have guessed that some neighborhoods would earmark $1,000 each for radar guns to combat speeding motorists. Or that Victory residents would spend $10,000 to buy band equipment for the Loring School. Or that many neighborhoods would help fund so-called gateway art installations (to the tune of $70,000 in Phillips, more than $13,000 in Kingfield, and $30,000 in East Calhoun).

But they have done all that--and more. Analyzing how NRP money has been spent is a tricky proposition because each neighborhood's spending priorities are laid out in a separate neighborhood action plan, and projects are reported under multiple budget headings. Still, data kept by the NRP and the Minneapolis Community Development Agency (MCDA) allow for a broad-stroke breakdown of some of the largest NRP spending categories.

  • The big picture: Total funding for the 20-year life of the program is $400 million.

  • What has been allocated: Through early May, NRP projects approved by the policy board totaled $217.8 million. (An additional $11.8 million has been earmarked for neighborhoods whose final action plans have yet to be approved.)

  • What's left for Phase II: $170.4 million. Of that, about $20 million is expected to pay for administration and a small subsidy to the city's Youth Coordinating Board, leaving roughly $150 million for the neighborhoods to spend.

  • What it costs to run the program: To date, about $12.8 million has been allocated for the NRP's central office; in the second phase, estimates Bob Cooper, a Minneapolis Community Development Agency official who works with the NRP, the program will spend $2 million a year, for a total of $18 million. That brings the total administrative cost to nearly $31 million, or just less than 8 percent of the program's budget. Those numbers do not include neighborhood groups' staff and paperwork expenditures--a number officials say is hard to isolate from the various action plans.

  • How much has been gobbled up by government agencies: $15.7 million of the NRP's total expenditures so far have been allocated to parks projects, including a new gymnasium in Whittier Park ($1.8 million) and a master plan for Loring Park ($1.1 million). At least $735,000 has been spent to plant roughly 8,500 trees in more than 20 neighborhoods. In addition, nearly $5 million has been allocated for school projects including computer labs, playground improvements, and special programs. And finally, $4.6 million has been slated for Hennepin County social programs, including youth and job projects, drug and alcohol outreach, and small-business training. Combined, schools, parks, and the county have attracted 11.6 percent of the NRP's funds so far.

  • How much has been allocated for housing: Through the beginning of May, $98.5 million--or 45.6 percent of the total--has been designated for housing. State law requires 52.5 percent.

  • Yeah, but what do you mean by housing? The MCDA's Cooper estimates that approximately $26 million of the NRP's housing funds has gone for administration, education, and other related programs. He figures that another $46 million has been spent on home-improvement loans or grants and programs to assist homebuyers; that figure also includes $5 million worth of projects to improve rental properties. The final $25 million has been designated for housing development.

    But figuring out how much of that money has gone to the city's current pet cause, affordable housing, is not easy even for the numbers guru. "That's not something that has been tracked over the first nine years of the program," says Cooper. "There's no real easy answer to that question."


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