Wednesday, March 4, 2009

$110K, new staffer needed to administer neighborhood support funds

It will cost Cincinnati slightly more than $110,000 to administer the Neighborhood Support Program and the Neighborhood Business District Support Program, according to a recent report to city council's Vibrant Neighborhoods Committee by city manager Milton Dohoney Jr.

Following a period of controversy resulting from the ouster of several board members of the non-profit Invest in Neighborhoods (IIN), City Council in December 2008 moved administration of the programs in-house to the Department of Community Development (DCD) and set a budget of $50,000.

That decision was changed by a council motion in January 2009, extending IIN's contract by an additional year to give DCD staff the opportunity to study the costs and staffing necessary to take on the job.

But last month, council again voted that DCD should immediately begin administering the programs.

On February 19, a motion by councilmembers Roxanne Qualls and Laketa Cole sought to identify what services DCD will provide to the neighborhoods, what services IIN provided to the neighborhoods, how the services overlap, and how much additional funding the DCD would require to provide services equal to those of IIN.

What's the future of the Neighborhood Summit?

Besides the administration of NSP and NBDSP funds, IIN has extended its mission to areas of neighborhood capacity building, including the annual Neighborhood Summit.

"Invest in Neighborhoods provided these services to community councils and business districts by mobilizing a community-driven cadre of volunteers who worked with Invest's administrative staff and Executive Director," Dohoney says.

The City's contract with IIN has allowed the non-profit to utilize unused NSP funds for the Neighborhood Summit, then to reimburse community councils upon submittal of a voucher on an as-needed basis until the next City budget was passed.

Dohoney says that, under DCD guidance, voucher submission could be subject to multiple levels of red tape.

"DCD must review and then process each council's voucher and submit forms to various departments for signature prior to the community council receiving payment," he says.

As for the Neighborhood Summit, DCD will be looking for volunteers and community partners to determine its future feasibility.

"DCD hopes to implement the NSP and the NBDSF programs as effectively and efficiently as possible under City constraints," Dohoney says. "DCD will not, however, involve itself in issues or conflicts outside the NSP and NBDSF program."

DCD's review process

DCD is beginning to mirror the IIN proposal reviews and other process, utilizing volunteers when available, Dohoney says.

And IIN's previously established timelines are being followed.

"One NSP review process and one training session has already taken place," Dohoney says. "A second review is scheduled in early March. DCD has met with CDBNU* and plans to mirror those processes as well."

Dohoney adds that the City plans to hire a full time senior community development analyst to run the programs this May, with a pro-rated salary estimated at $50,000.

* Cincinnati Neighborhood Business Districts United

Previous reading on BC:
Invest in Neighborhoods wins NSP contract (12/9/08)
Kamuf: Look into Invest in Neighborhoods turmoil (11/5/08)
Invest in Neighborhoods under scrutiny, NSP out for bid (9/10/08)
Former Invest in Neighborhoods board member says agency 'hiding more than they're telling' (8/8/08)