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March 19, 2011

 

Winter drains snow budgets

Snow removal costs expected to exceed budgets in city, county

From Staff Reports
The cold winter that has buried the county in snow this season, has left officials trying to figure out how to cover budget shortfalls that are left in the area of snow removal.
The city Common Council unanimously approved a transfer of $35,000 from the general fund balance to the city’s snow and ice control budget Tuesday.
Mayor Susan Feiszli said the DPW is $10,000 over the $90,000 that was budgeted for road salt this year, and is asking for an additional $25,000 to cover the rest of this winter and when snow starts to fall at the end of the year.
The total snow and ice control portion of the DPW budget is about $348,000.
City DPW Superintendent Chris Bistocchi has not returned repeated phone calls.
Feiszli said the rising cost of salt and the frequent snowfall has strained the budget.
Feiszli said Bistocchi based the budget on an average of what was needed the past eight years. Although the average seemed to be on the high side, the recent storms have exhausted the funds, she said.
Cortland County Highway Superintendent Don Chambers said last week he expects at the end of the snow season to have exceeded the $540,000 budgeted for salt expenditures in 2011.
Approximately $180,000 remains in the budget line, said Chambers, which would fund any more road maintenance at the end of this winter or the beginning of the next.
But this shortfall will be offset by additional revenues the county will get for plowing state roads, he said.
Within about 60 days Chambers expects the state to submit its payment.
In a typical year the county receives about $700,000 from the state to cover the expense of snow removal that county workers perform on about 110 miles of state roads in Cortland County.
Chambers expects the county could realize about an additional $100,000 in plowing revenue this year but he stressed this is an estimate because it depends on the weather.
“We get paid for time and material we put onto the state routes,” Chambers said, adding that in 2010 the county received $708,000 in revenue for snow removal on state roads.
Chambers said the Highway Committee will likely pass a resolution in May allowing any additional revenue from the state to be used to offset any increases in salt and fuel expenditures.
Chambers said this year’s snowy conditions caused the Highway Department to use more equipment, personnel time and salt than usual. The roads were sprayed with rock salt, he said, the material typically used to melt ice. When conditions are very cold, calcium chloride is added to the salt but Chambers said this is not often needed.
The village of Dryden has used up its $15,000 budget for road salt, Village Clerk Debra Marrotte said. Snowplow drivers have not required overtime pay, however, she said.
While the area has received more snow than in previous years, John Phelps, the Homer town highway superintendent, said he was on track with his snow budget.
He said this year ranks as one of the snowiest in his eight years working in the highway department.
The town’s snow budget runs through the end of the year. Some of the snow budget is used for this winter while the rest is saved for the beginning of next winter.
While Phelps said the town’s budget is on track, he said there is still plenty of winter left.
“You never know what March brings,” Phelps said.
Phelps said he has used about a third of his material budget for salt and sand this year. He said his budget is about 95,000.
“Overall, we’re in pretty good shape,” Phelps said.
Phelps said one of his concerns for next-year’s budget is fuel costs. He said the budget may have to be increased next year as diesel prices rise.
Homer village’s fiscal year ended on Feb. 28. The village used all but $189 of the $92,724 budgeted for snow removal this year, said Lou Anne Randall, village clerk and treasurer.
“We just barely squeaked by,” Randall said.

— Staff reporters Catherine Wilde, Anthony Borrelli, Jeremy Houghtaling, Scott Conroe and Matthew Nojiri contributed to this report.

 

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