In his seven years as CFO, DeWitt’s stewardship of the $16 billion annual budget was praised by lawmakers who saw him as one of the people most responsible for the District’s strong fiscal footing.
Mendelson credited DeWitt with many aspects of the city’s financial security, including its Triple-A bond rating and major growth in pre-pandemic revenue.
“Jeff DeWitt is the fundamental reason for the District’s current financial health,” Mendelson said in a statement. “. . . Because of his management the Mayor and Council have been able to invest more dollars in affordable housing and social justice initiatives.”
Bowser, too, hailed DeWitt for improving the city’s bond rating and building up a 60-day cash reserve fund.
“Among the many ways he helped set our community up for success, CFO DeWitt’s critical analysis paved the way for regionwide dedicated funding for WMATA to support much-needed infrastructure improvements,” she said in a statement. “It is with this sound financial footing that the District has been able to weather the COVID-19 recession while providing critical support to residents and businesses.”
Advocates for freer spending by the city sometimes criticized DeWitt’s stern recommendations that the city save for emergencies.
When one such emergency arrived in the form of the coronavirus pandemic, DeWitt’s dire projections of major revenue shortfalls led Bowser and the council to craft a 2021 budget that froze salaries for city workers and devoted less money than some council members wanted for certain priorities, such as mental health care and relief for pandemic-shuttered businesses.
Last week, DeWitt testified before the council with a surprising update: The city actually took in more than half a billion dollars in fiscal year 2020 above what he had forecast.
Some council members said they wished DeWitt had predicted that revenue, which came from federal aid as well as better-than-expected tax revenue, so they could have been more generous in last year’s budget decisions.
“If we had better projections and we knew that there would be this largest surplus we’ve ever had . . . we could have put money toward the businesses and other matters where relief was needed,” Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) said to DeWitt at that meeting.
DeWitt, who spent most of his career working for the city of Phoenix before taking his Washington job, told Bowser and Mendelson that he would resign effective March 9, which he said would give him enough time to finish revenue forecasts that the mayor and council need to write the budget for fiscal year 2022.
That process is already underway; the mayor will propose her budget in March.