Snow blows city budgets

snow_removal.gi.top.jpgNew York City blew through its snow removal budget during a December blizzard. By Tami Luhby, senior writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The steady onslaught of winter storms has wiped out snow removal budgets in cities and states all along the East Coast.

Governments are shelling out millions of dollars to clear the streets of snow and ice, spending more than expected on salt and labor. The storms are the last thing public officials need since many are already struggling to close major budget deficits.

"It's been trying not only on our manpower and equipment, but also on our pocketbooks," said Sam Williams, director of the streets, roads and forestry division in the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government in Kentucky. "And we've got another six weeks to go."

Williams just asked the county council for another $200,000 since his division has blown through the $800,000 it had budgeted. His employees have had to clear about two feet of snow so far -- roughly eight inches more than the historical average.

In some places, all it took was one storm to drain the budget. New York City, for instance, ran through its entire $38.8 million snow removal account just to handle the 20 inches of snow that fell in late December. And the costs are expected to soar since the Big Apple has had to contend with its snowiest January on record, with 36 inches falling in Central Park.

That doesn't mean that the city, which was criticized for mishandling the December blizzard, will pull back on its response when the flakes start flying.

"We've never changed our snow-fighting plans due to budget concerns," said Jason Post, spokesman for Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who must close a $2 billion budget deficit before the next fiscal year starts in July. "We'll find the money elsewhere."

It's not that unusual for cities and states to spend more than budgeted on snow removal. After all, it all depends on how much of the white stuff Mother Nature sends their way.

New Jersey's Department of Transportation recently exceeded its $20 million snow removal budget, which will force it to ask the cash-strapped state legislature for more money at the end of the season.

But it still has a ways to go to top the $41 million it spent last year to clear its nearly 13,000 miles of road or the $31 million expended the year before.

"We have processes and mechanisms in place to transfer money to ensure we can keep fighting the snow through the winter," said Tim Greeley, a department spokesman.

For some municipalities, plowing the snow isn't the only expense. It's getting rid of it after.

Westport, Ct., has been hit with about 38 inches of snow this winter, too much to leave on the side of the road. So it now has to transport mounds of snow to parking lots by the beach and in town.

This isn't cheap. It cost $60,000 to move the 20 inches of snow that fell on Westport schools in mid-January. That helped drain the town's $400,000 snow removal budget.

Blowing the budget isn't the biggest concern for Steve Edwards, the town's public works director. It's the condition of his employees and equipment.

His department has lost 20% of its workforce over the past three years due to budget cuts, leaving the remaining staff to shoulder the burden.

"My men are tired," he said. "How many nights can they pull all-nighters?" To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,098.45 18.88 0.11%
Nasdaq 4,580.27 22.58 0.50%
S&P 500 2,003.37 6.63 0.33%
Treasuries 2.34 0.01 0.39%
Data as of 5:16am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 16.09 0.08 0.50%
Apple Inc 102.50 0.25 0.24%
Intel Corp 34.92 0.27 0.78%
General Electric Co 25.98 -0.03 -0.12%
Microsoft Corp 45.43 0.00 0.00%
Data as of Aug 29

Sections

Union organizers say that fast food workers will strike in more than 150 cities on Thursday. Workers want a $15 minimum wage and protection from retaliation by employers. More

Gas prices are falling to nearly $3 a gallon in some parts of South Carolina, and that will soon be common in much of the country. More

Xiaomi is beating Apple and Samsung in China and 'selling a dream' as it bids for world smartphone domination. More

The Coolest Cooler is the most successful Kickstarter campaign in the site's history, raising $13.3 million from over 62,000 backers. More

Five CNNMoney readers share stories about saving that you can learn from: What they would do differently if they had another chance. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.