$600,000 in Extra Cash for DeWItt: What to Do?

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DeWitt City Council members passed the city budget Monday night, but they did so without deciding what to do with a $600,000 budget surplus.

Mayor Paul Opsommer appointed a panel of two council members, Jim Rundborg and Tim Kangas, and three citizens to determine what to do with the money. A decision will likely come in January.

Believe it or not, parks are the reason the mayor says the City of DeWitt has saved so much money -- savings from running parks together with DeWitt schools and DeWitt Township.

"I get more compliments on the parks and rec authority than anything else," Opsommer said.

Added savings, Opsommer says, comes from running a joint fire department with Olive and Riley townships.

Back in March, the mayor explained what the city could do with the extra cash.

"One or two mill reduction in the millage rate," was on option. "A second option would be to do a rebate check in January," Opsommer said in the March interview.

"(The) third option is to do nothing and wait another year," he added.

Now that it's budget time, some say it's time to decide. 10-year city resident Dave Desmyter says regular city departments need extra funds.

"I'd rather see them sink the money they have into parks and recreation instead of saving it for some rainy day fund," Desmyter said, adding that some city roads might benefit from repaving.

But the mayor says the city will likely wait until next year to make the call.

"At this early stage, (making a decision) would not be prudent on our part fiscally... It's too early," Opsommer said.

Too early, he says, in part because the city is waiting to see how much money it will receive from the state legislature in shared revenue.

Still, the mayor is leaning toward some options, like a rebate, over others.

"To hold on to the people's money ... that's not what we want to do," he said.

Some in DeWitt say they're willing to play the waiting game. But they do want something done with all the savings.

"If the city is consistently collecting more taxes than it needs, then I just feel there should be a millage rollback or a rebate of the excess money that's collected," six-year city resident Bill Sullivan said.

Sullivan will serve on the panel determining what to do with the excess funds.

There's one more possible option for the surplus -- use it for road and sewer projects. Opsommer says that might become necessary.