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Delavan City Council candidates look to move city forward

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Catherine W. Idzerda
March 27, 2012
— It's a beautiful little city with plenty going for it.

But now is the time to shore up Delavan's assets and prepare for the future.


That's one thing both candidates for Delavan City Council agree on.


Incumbent Bruce DeWitt, 524 McDowell St., Delavan, faces challenger Chris Phillips, 306 N. Fifth St., Delavan for the District 2 seat.


DeWitt touts his experience on the council, including his tenure on the finance committee.


Phillips is looking for more transparency and accountably from the council and believes he could bring a fresh energy to the council.


Budget

Like cities throughout the state, Delavan faces significant cuts in state aid and declining revenue from reduced property values.


"The budget is a huge issue with me," Phillips said. "We shouldn't be raising taxes."


Balancing the budget requires more than just considering the major expenditures. It also requires considering all the small expenditures that add up, he said.


It also means making the best of the facilities and services that the city already offers, Phillips said.


DeWitt said that during his time on the finance committee, he worked to change the way capital improvements are financed. Instead of borrowing, the city target specific funds and puts them in a kind of savings account for improvements.


"We put a cap on the room tax dollars," DeWitt said. "That got us in trouble when Lake Lawn went under."


Room tax money in excess of a budgeted amount will go into the same savings account for capital improvement.


Using TIFs

Tax increment financing is a tool for governments to attract private investment. It allows municipalities to acquire property, eliminate dilapidated buildings, make improvements such as sewer, water and streets and charge the cost to a TIF district.


As the district's property value rises because of the new investment, the increases in property taxes are used to repay only the municipality's costs.


Phillips is wary of developing another TIF district.


"There are other TIF districts out there that aren't filled," Phillips said.


Until those are retired, they take away property tax dollars from the local school systems.


DeWitt said that TIFs are the only economic development tool a city really has to encourage growth. He's especially concerned about the empty Delavan Hotel in the city's downtown. Developing the hotel is crucial to the health of the downtown, he said.


Service and accountability

Phillips got involved with the city council when he was trying to get Fifth Street repaired. He was frustrated by what he saw as a lack of follow-through and "common sense" decision making.


Phillips also would like the decision-making process to be more transparent.


DeWitt noted that while on the finance committee, he helped develop policies that will help with debt reduction—and those changes will help taxpayers throughout the city.


In addition, he and others established a new process for nonprofits that want to use room tax dollars for events. The process requires more accountably from the agencies that apply for the money.


DELAVAN CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES

Bruce DeWitt (I)


Age: 58


Address: 524 McDowelll St., Delavan.


Job: Financial planner for Wells Fargo through Arris Capital Management, three years in the military.


Education: Fort High School, UW-Whitewater.


Community service: None.


Elected posts: Delavan City Council


***


Christopher Phillips


Age: 36


Address: 306 N. Fifth St., Delavan.


Job: Broker associate with Shorewest, formerly a sergeant in Army National Guard.


Education: Big Foot High School, two years at Gateway Technical College.


Community service: Volunteer at Fontana School District, volunteer track and volleyball coach.


Elected posts: None



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