Budget discussions about the Department of Neighborhoods
At this morning’s Budget Committee, we discussed some items relating to our very important Department of Neighborhoods (DON).
Three of these items were relatively minor, though obviously important in their own right. A Green Sheet – that is, a Council-proposed change to the budget – was presented that would add staff and increase capacity within Historic Preservation.
Another Green Sheet was presented that would restore a proposed cut to an Administrative Support Staff person: the idea is to have 1 full-time employee (FTE) to support the department as a whole, as well as two new emerging programs—PACE and the Public Outreach and Engagement Liaisons (POEL).
The third Green Sheet would add funding for the abovementioned PACE program. This is a pilot program launched by DON earlier this year and this leadership training proved successful. The idea is to provide funding to ensure the continuation of PACE and help reach out and train up and coming leaders.
The last item, involving the NMF, is a bit more complicated, which is why I am writing this blog now.
In the proposed 2013-2014 budget, there is an increase of $100,000 in 2013 and 2014 to the Neighborhood Matching Fund. The Green Sheet presented would eliminate that proposed add.
I want to make it clear that we are NOT cutting the NMF.
This program is extremely important to me and the benefits that we as a city experience include community building and the leveraging that occurs because of neighborhood involvement. I want every penny in the NMF to be spent on projects!
What is being proposed is to not accept this add. While this might seem like semantics, it is very different than a cut.
The proposal is an add to the Small and Simple funding. This funding would be earmarked as “special designation project type,” more specifically for ethnic and cultural physical improvements. Funds would be awarded through the Small and Simple (SAS) Project Fund, which makes awards up to $20,000.
When looking at past applications and awards for similar type projects (2007-2011), there were five SAS awards made: four for planning and just one for physical improvement to a facility.
Based on the history, there doesn’t appear to be a high demand for this special project type. This Green Sheet eliminates earmarking to the NMF for ethnic and cultural facility improvements only.
I felt that existing funds could accommodate the needs for physical improvements to ethnic and cultural centers, if applications were received.
I am weary of earmarking NMF for special designations. One of the things that makes our NMF program so successful is the flexibility it allows for groups and/or neighborhoods to implement their vision. It allows people to dream big, and by earmarking funds for a specifics type of project, we limit the imagination and the opportunities.
So that is my thinking behind Green Sheet 43-2-A-1. And to ease concerns further, we can revisit this next year when we discuss the 2014 budget. If trends reverse, and multiple applications are submitted for physical improvements to these cultural centers, chances are good that we will have the ability to provide funding to the NMF.
My larger goal, however, is to add funds and staff to the NMF programming so dreams can become a reality and leverage every opportunity we can.