The city’s government neared the end of its allocated budget for snow removal after another snowstorm hit the city earlier this week.
Each calendar year, Madison allocates a certain amount of its budget to snow removal, according to Tim Fruit, an administrative analyst for the city’s Finance Department. The amount is typically around $110,000, he said. This accounts for about six major snow removals a year along with 27 small salt and sand plowings, he said.
A major snow removal is when a “snow emergency” is declared and more than three inches of snow have fallen, according to the city of Madison website.
“The city plans for six major snow removals a year, based off of historical information,” Fruit said.
After the snowstorm March 5, Madison had used five of the six major snow removals allotted for 2013, according to Katie Crawley, assistant to Mayor Paul Soglin and liaison to the Streets Division, said.
During a major snow removal, private contractors are called to help plow all of the residential roads. If there are less than three inches, only city plows are used, Crawley said.
“The city generally expects to use four major snow removals during the January to March months and two in the November to December months,” Crawley said.
With nine months remaining in the year and no sign of winter relenting, each additional snowfall increases the city’s snow removal bill, Crawley said. Additionally, the fall could yield additional snowfall, increasing the cost to the city further, she said.
According to Crawley, this poses concerns of the possibility of the city spending more than its budget.
For one, the city will continue to provide snow removal services regardless of the costs, Crawley said. If necessary, the city will dip into its contingency reserve, a part of the budget that is set aside for emergency types of things, she added.
The City Council is also a possible source of appropriation and additional funds, Fruit said.
Although Madison has already used five of its major snowplows this year, it may not be a cause for huge concern.
The amount of money paid to the contractors is directly related to how much snow has fallen, according to Fruit. If there is less snow, the contractors work fewer hours, he said.
Therefore, the snowstorms in early February, where just over three or four inches of snow fell, did not cost as much as the snowstorm that occurred earlier this week, Fruit said.
Despite the unpredictability of weather, the money allocated for snow removal within the budget is generally standard and not likely to change, Fruit said.
Staying within the snow removal budget has varied greatly from year to year, according to Crawley. In 2012 when there was virtually no snow from January to March, the money that was not used was returned to the city, she said.
However, when the major snowstorm in December hit, dumping almost sixteen inches in Madison, she said the extra money was useful.
“It all evens out,” Crawley said. Hopefully it will this time too.”