Bad weather could bust budget
NEW YORK – A massive snowstorm was the last thing cash-strapped cities needed to ring out 2010.
“It’s a budget buster,” said Mark Boughton, mayor of Danbury, Conn., where 18 inches of snow fell on Sunday and Monday.
Dealing with the storm could cost Danbury $450,000, more than half the city’s snow removal budget for the entire winter, Boughton said. The fact that it fell on a Sunday helped drive up the costs because the crews got double-time.
Cities, counties and states are now totaling the financial damage of the holiday weekend blizzard that blanketed much of the East Coast. Most had to call in their entire public works departments, as well as hire outside contractors.
Many state and local governments can ill-afford to spend more than budgeted on snow removal. Hammered by the financial blizzard known as the Great Recession, they are already cutting back on services and personnel.
Virginia residents saw the after-effects of several major storms last winter. The state Department of Transportation, which maintains most of the highways and roads, had to spend more than $250 million on snow removal, far above the $94 million budgeted, said spokesman Jeff Caldwell.
As a result, the state had to cut back on non-priority maintenance, such as grass cutting and tree trimming. Instead of mowing the entire highway medians six times a year, for instance, workers only did it twice and only cut ten feet on each side.
This weekend’s single storm has left officials hoping for a mild winter.
“If we keep getting storms of this magnitude, we will certainly blow the budget,” said Allan Fung, mayor of Cranston, R.I., which will likely spend more than $150,000 to remove 10 to 12 inches of snow.
The city, which has set aside $550,000 for the year, has been struggling in the economic downturn. It has had to slash spending in all departments, especially after having its state aid cut back four times in two years, Fung said. (CNN)