A dozen residents have been tapped to study the city’s finances to come up with ways of balancing next year’s budget.
Expecting a deficit between $1.1 million and $1.8 million, Mayor Joseph Peterson said tough decisions have to be made in the months ahead.
Rather than having politicians being the only ones coming up with ideas on addressing the situation, Peterson opted to form a .
Residents were asked to volunteer to be on the committee and will be charged with looking over the city’s books and giving input, as well as prioritizing what city services should remain unaffected and which ones should be considered for revisions or outright elimination.
After sifting though numerous applications and resumes, Peterson has chosen the 12 people who will sit on the committee. They are Michael Beaubien, Corki Benson, Brandon Crupi, Richard Custer, Rose Darin, Eron Feltz, Stephanie Jasinski, Ferd Keller, Steve Semetko, Anna Hardy-Smith, Tom Winkler and Milt Zavsza.
Peterson said he was impressed with the talent pool and even more impressed that they care enough about their city to get involved.
“Half of them are people I’d never met before,” he said. “I took people from all different backgrounds and from different parts of the town. I mixed it up as much as I could.”
Peterson said the mix contains a cross section of ages and backgrounds, including a stay-at-home mother, a former builder, a retired city employee and a respiratory therapist.
The mayor met all 12 during an informal gathering on Wednesday where they were introduced and given some documents to look over.
Starting this week, the group will meet at 5 p.m. Mondays in the training room on the second floor of the . Meetings are open to the public and all are invited.
Crupi, who has lived in the city since 2008, said he’s looking forward to getting down to business. He holds a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
“By joining a budget committee, I hope to provide some useful options (and) information to the city of Wyandotte, as well as gain some experience for myself,” he said.
Darin, who has a real estate and medical background, said she has high hopes for the committee.
“It’s a way to put different eyes on what other people have already looked at,” she said. “I think the governor is putting the communities in such a high risk of failing and it’s kind of scary. I am very invested in Wyandotte (and) I want to see it continue to grow as it has over the past 25 years.”
While she’s been active in city functions over the years through the McKinley Neighbors United and as a volunteer at the , Darin said she’s not coming into this latest project with any preconceived notions.
“I don’t really feel like I am walking in and saying this can go and that can go,” she said. “We have a really diverse group of people on this committee. I am very interested in hearing everyone’s ideas.”
With that said, though, the bleak financial outlook means one of two things, Darin said. Either more money needs to come into the city or some of the long-treasured city services need to be axed.
“The cuts that are coming from the state are so draconian that some things have to go,” she said. “I hope that reasonable minds will prevail and the important things in the city will remain. But I don’t know how you can have all the things you’ve always had with only half of the money coming in. … There are hard times coming.”
Darin praised former and current city officials, saying if it hadn’t been for their budgeting in years past, the city’s financial situation would be a lot worse.
“The city government has already done a very good job by trying to prepare for this over the years,” she said. “They have been very proactive with making cuts over the years.”
Darin said she’s impressed that officials are willing to open up a dialogue with the community.
“I like the fact that they’re interested in getting our input,” she said. “I think that says a lot for the government of this city.”
Peterson said he appreciates everyone who volunteered for the committee and encourages everyone with ideas to stay involved.
“I want to take this opportunity (to) thank all the people that expressed an interest in serving on this committee,” he wrote in a letter to city officials. “There is much work to be done in the coming months. I am certain we will receive very good input from this group of dedicated citizens.”