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During the last snow day that blessed the University of Wisconsin campus, a worker does his best to brush piles of snow off Library Mall, making it less frozen tundra and more walkway.[/media-credit]

After being hit by several major storms early in 2011, Madison remains snow-free for the month of December, which has eased the city’s budget and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In contrast to years past, the city has not expended any of its snow removal budget this season.

City Streets Operations Manager Chris Kelley said the unusual weather is an unexpected financial relief for the city.

“Most storms will cost $300,000 to clean up,” he said. “Last year at this time, we had two storms to deal with. We spent about $600,000 just in December with two storms early in the month. That’s something we don’t have to pay this year.”

The city has budgeted $6,487,527 for snow removal in 2012. That number is a $507,398 improvement over last year’s budget of $5,980,129. The budget includes salt, sand, plowing and employees’ time, according to Kelley.

The city budgets for five or six storms a year. Because of the major storms that occurred earlier this year, there is only room left in the budget for one additional storm until January, Kelley said.

Kelley added the city plows all “measurable” storms – snowfall of three or more inches.

The clear streets benefit city business owners and residents as well. Last year, a breakdown in the city’s cleanup plan in December left downtown streets and sidewalks unusable, causing financial difficulties for local stores and inconveniences for residents.

After last year’s storm, city officials said the breakdown was caused by a shortage of city staff on hand to plow streets and lay down salt and sand. Many employees had taken leave for personal reasons and illness.

Communication between local businesses and the city’s parks division needed to be improved to avoid negatively impacting store owners’ businesses and revenue, Madison Business Improvement District Executive Director Mary Carbine told the Herald last winter.

After some city leaders called the maintenance “unacceptable” last year, the city worked to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its snow removal mechanisms to ensure a smoother experience for the current winter season.