City sets aside general fund, Penny for Pinellas revenue for grant program
Since 2015, the city has set aside Penny for Pinellas money and cash from the city's general fund to subsidize multiple projects through the Neighborhood Partnership Grants program.
The program was eliminated by former Mayor Bill Foster in 2013. Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to restart and fund the program.
"As mayor, I will encourage effective and influential neighborhood associations by funding the Neighborhood Partnership Grants program."
The Neighborhood Partnership Grants program allows organizations or groups to apply for grants up to $20,000 to fund specific improvement projects in their neighborhoods. The grants are a matching program, which means applicants must match the requested funds with volunteer hours (valued at $24/hour), in-kind services or cash.
In Foster's final budget, funding for the program remained at zero, but that changed the next year. The city allocated $175,000 in Penny for Pinellas money for the grants in 2015 and 2016; $0 in 2017 because there was money left over from 2016; and $75,000 in 2018, according to the approved fiscal year budgets.
The city also set aside money from the city's general fund for projects that cannot be covered by Penny for Pinellas, which can only can be applied to infrastructure projects, such as improvements to the stormwater system.
The amount of funding has outpaced the demand for grants in recent years. Susan Ajoc, the city's director of community services, said 17 projects have received funding since 2015.
This means there's still a pool of Penny for Pinellas money from 2016 available for grants. Ajoc said there are several neighborhoods working on applications for that 2016 money, but none has been submitted for review.
Some notable projects over the years include a debris boom in Mirror Lake that helps contain floating trash and a new playground in Historic Kenwood that will be built especially for 5-year-olds.
In addition to the Neighborhood Partnership Grants program, the city also has given out more than 100 grants through the Mayor's Neighborhood Mini Grants program. This program was set up to pay for community gardens, neighborhood picnics, cleanups and other events with a maximum award of $500. The grants come from the city's general fund.
We rate this Promise Kept.
Interview, Susan Ajoc, St. Petersburg's director of community services, Dec. 1, 2017
Email exchange, Ben Kirby, mayor's communications director, Dec. 11
Email exchange, Tom Greene, Director of Budget and Management for St. Petersburg, Dec. 11
New mayor want to revive program funding, offers mini-grants
Mayor Rick Kriseman campaigned heavily on strengthening St. Petersburg neighborhoods, in part by restarting the Neighborhood Partnership Grants program.
This is a matching grant program run by the city that allows organizations or groups to apply for up to $25,000 to fund specific improvement projects such as decorative lighting, neighborhood green spaces, playgrounds and public art. Grant proposals for playgrounds may be submitted for up to $35,000.
Because it's a matching grant, applicants must demonstrate that they can match or exceed the requested grant funds. Matches may be provided as any combination of cash, volunteer labor, donated supplies, professional services or maintenance.
The budget for the program was about $400,000 in 2011, but that fell to around $280,000 in 2012. In 2013, then-Mayor Bill Foster eliminated the program entirely.
Kriseman, who was running for mayor at the time, said at a budget hearing that he supported a $250,000 increase in neighborhood improvement funding. But funding remained at zero for 2014.
Kriseman will request $190,000 for the program in fiscal year 2015, which begins in October, said Ben Kirby, the city's communications director. The mayor is scheduled to send his official request to council by July 1, which will have until Sept. 18 to vote on it.
In the interim, Kirby said, the administration has set up $500 mini-grants to help neighborhoods build their communities. The grants can be used for community gardens, neighborhood picnics, cleanups and other events. The money for that program came from a $15,000 grant from Duke Energy, and the administration is asking Duke for another $15,000 to keep it going.
It is clear Kriseman plans to expand funding for the Neighborhood Partnership Grants program, but because the budget has not been formally submitted or approved by the council, we rate this promise In the Works.
StPete.org, Fiscal Year 2014 city budget Section I: Leisure & Community Services Administration, accessed June 9, 2014
Tampa Bay Times, "Neighborhood partnership grant applications ready," May 23, 2007
Interview with Benjamin Kirby, mayor's communications director, June 9-12, 2014