For residents, business owners and community-based groups in Venice that are looking for some extra funding for a project to improve the community, the Venice Neighborhood Council might be the source they are looking for.

Wanting to have a more “formalized” system of allocating its funding from the City of Los Angeles, the Venice Neighborhood Council has decided to open up the process to the community, allowing stakeholders and organizations to apply for project funding.

Each of the 89 certified Neighborhood Councils in Los Angeles receives $50,000 each year from the city Department of Neighborhood Empowerment. The councils can each decide how to allocate their funding in their own way, as some choose to spend it on community functions or neighborhood improvement projects.

While some Neighborhood Councils spend a big chunk of their funding on various projects in a given year, others are more thrifty, allowing them to carry over funds into their annual budget. However, if the funds that are carried over are not spent after three years, the money would be returned to the city, according to the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.

This year, Venice Neighborhood Council members have announced that they have $40,000 in city funding available for community improvement projects and are encouraging people who may need project funding to apply.

The application process, which was proposed by the Neighborhood Council Neighborhood Committee, will provide a more organized method of allocating money to community projects, Neighborhood Council vice president Linda Lucks said.

“We haven’t had a procedure in the past, so we decided to do it formally,” Lucks, a Neighborhood Committee member, said of the spending policy.

Applications will be accepted from Venice community stakeholders and community-based organizations, such as homeowners associations, business improvement districts and religious-based organizations, with a maximum of $5,000 being awarded per project. Stakeholders are defined as anyone who lives, works or owns property in Venice.

The projects for which the applicant can seek funding must build community through the implementation process and enhance the neighborhood once they are complete, according to the Neighborhood Council. Examples of potential projects are beautification, art, education and capital improvement projects.

All applications will be reviewed by the Venice Neighborhood Council and three copies must be submittted, postmarked by Saturday, March 1st. The project work must be completed within the fiscal year between August and July 31st, next year.

While other local Neighborhood Councils, such as in Palms, have developed similar methods of disbursing their funding to stakeholders, the Venice council is hoping to set a trend for more councils to do so, said Lucks.

“Hopefully we’re taking the lead on a fair way to do it,” said Lucks, who is also a member of the city Board of Neighborhood Commissioners.

Venice Neighborhood Council president Mike Newhouse agreed, saying that other councils can hopefully look at the Venice plan as a “model.”

By allowing people in the community to apply for needed project funding, the Neighborhood Council is sending a message that it is there to help, Lucks added.

“It shows that the Neighborhood Council is really there for the people,” Lucks said. “That’s our goal — to get more people to participate.”

Newhouse noted that the council devised the application plan as a way to increase outreach and get more community members involved in the process.

“I think it will broaden the scope of folks who think that the Neighborhood Council is useful to them,” Newhouse said. “We’re here to make the community better and we want you involved.”

Former Venice Neighborhood Council president DeDe Audet also praised the funding application process for triggering more community involvement with the council.

“If this doesn’t bring in more interest to the Neighborhood Council, I don’t know what else we can do,” Audet said. “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for people to gather in their neighborhood under their neighborhood leaders to work on these things and think positively about what they can do to provide for Venice.”

More of the councils seem to be heading in the same direction as Venice by encouraging stakeholders to apply for project funding, said Kevin McNeely, administrator for the Neighborhood Council funding program.

“It’s a systematic attempt by [the Neighborhood Councils] to reach more people in the community,” McNeely said. “It’s a real positive direction.”

Audet added that building more community involvement can only improve the Neighborhood Councils.

“The most successful Neighborhood Councils are the ones who gain the most interest and support of the stakeholders,” Audet said.

Once the applications are received, the Neighborhood Committee will review them and make recommendations to the full Neighborhood Council, which plans to make the final selections at its meeting in June. The applications will be reviewed on various criteria, including budget, work plan and how many people will benefit.

All projects must conform to the funding guidelines of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, which has final discretion on whether the project is clearly beneficial to the community.

The application forms will be distributed at various locations in the community, including the Venice Library, Oakwood Recreation Center, and on the Venice council Web site at www.venice

A public forum is also scheduled in March for all applicants to present their project proposal to the community.

Information, the council Web site listed above.