As the city of Minneapolis searches for a more equitable way to fund its neighborhood associations, researchers at the University of Minnesota came to a conclusion: Spend more money on them.

To do so, one City Council member says the city might renew the tax district that expires this year after funneling millions of property tax dollars into neighborhoods.

The university's analysis, based on nearly 30 years of data, was released this month as the city began the final phase of Neighborhoods 2020, a yearslong effort to change the makeup and performance of 70 city-funded neighborhood associations.

The city brought on the U's Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) to study the issue last year after it abandoned an initial proposal that would have cut funding to associations that did not have a proportionate number of people of color and renters on their boards.

Under the new framework approved by the council, the city will give each association at least $25,000 in base funding each year. The rest of the funding will be dependent on specific community projects and on how each one plans to serve "underrepresented communities in their area."

However, CURA concluded that the base funding will prevent significant money from reaching sections of the city with more residents of color and renters, and that have previously experienced gentrification or displacement, such as in north and central Minneapolis.

"We want to place resources in priority for those who need it most," said C Terrence Anderson, director of community programs for CURA. "The most racial-equity-based position would be … raising the total amount of dollars in the pool and not raising the base of funding for all neighborhoods."

This year, the city is dividing the $4.1 million that remains from the tax district. It plans to have the same amount come from its general fund next year, said David Rubedor, director of the city's Neighborhoods and Community Relations department.

Council Member Andrew Johnson, who sits on a committee for Neighborhoods 2020 and is a former president of the Longfellow Community Council, said he would like to spend even more on the associations and find a dedicated source of funding.

"Of course there is an interest in seeing communities that have been historically disinvested in to see a correction in that," he said. "At the same time, I think it's a false choice if we simply are saying it's one or the other when it comes to providing a minimum level of funding so that a neighborhood association can function."

Johnson said the city is considering asking the Legislature to renew the consolidated tax district. It would likely need to increase the property tax levy if the money continues to come from the general fund, he said.

In the past, the money spent by neighborhood associations primarily benefited white homeowners, CURA's analysis found. Renters and people of color were also largely underrepresented on association boards.

"I struggle to find another word other than 'institutional racism,' " said Anderson.

The city has seen recent changes as the issue of racial equity has gained greater awareness, such as in the board of the Folwell Neighborhood Association.

"I strongly believe as we move forward with this that we will see a much broader representation of diversity in neighborhood boards," Rubedor said.

A draft of specific guidelines for Neighborhoods 2020 is expected to be released next month. The council will begin reviewing the guidelines in April, Rubedor said.

Miguel Otárola • 612-673-4753

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the expiration date of the special tax district that funds neighborhoods.