Snow Costs…So Far

Jeremy Aldrich -- February 24th, 2010

At last night’s City Council meeting, the city’s Director of Public Works Jim Baker said that this year’s winter weather has already busted the budget by costing more than twice thrice the amount allocated for snow and ice removal.  The 2010 budget set aside $220,773 for snow and ice removal, but Baker says that due to the unusually wet winter they’ve spent another $268,000 on top of that almost $800,000.  Some of the additional expenses will come out of other areas in the department’s budget, but Baker says they will need another $268,000 to finish closing the gap.  The  City will need to find the money from somewhere to fund the already-spent overruns.

For comparison, here are a few other expenditures in the adopted 2010 city budget:

  • Highway/street beautification – $273,674
  • Street cleaning – $474,068
  • Water purification – $976,166
  • Westover Pool – $416,420
  • Rec Center and Playgrounds – $666,496
  • Golf Course Management – $699,693
  • Golf Course Clubhouse – $469,666
  • Economic Development – $610,096
  • Downtown Renaissance – $161,249

Edited 2/25/10 to reflect information from comments and to correct grammatical errors.

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    15 Responses to “Snow Costs…So Far”

    1. I’m not sure how the snow removal budget works, but — considering the Valley gets varying amounts of snow each winter — it would make sense to have a budget that would carry over from one PY to the next. If we get less snow in 2009, the full budget wouldn’t get used.

    2. Dany Fleming says:

      Another “cost” area where I’m interested in hearing about from folks is, “what are the costs to businesses and families when conditions cause the schools to shut down?”

      Apart from the debate of what conditions merit closing schools, what’s the effect when they do close?

      With 7-10 days of closed schools, how do families arrange for their kids? Are area employers accommodating to parents? Do parents have to use valuable vacation time or take pay cuts? Do parents use limited disposable income to cover child-care costs? Do parents now have less time and money to put back into the economy?

      I imagine the “costs” are highest to families with the most limited resources or with the least accommodating employers. Any good or bad stories of how employers help?

    3. Bazrik says:

      Maybe I’m stating the obvious here – but does $1.1 million for the golf course AGAIN bug anyone else? Downtown Renaissance must love seeing that…

    4. Don Kidd says:

      When I don’t work I don’t get paid, but being single it only effects me. But, I also don’t make enough in a day to pay the deductible should I crash my car, so it kinda works out.

    5. Renee says:

      My thoughts were the same as Brent’s & Bazrik’s

    6. Thanh says:

      FYI. The budget numbers shown in the post above for other expenditures such as highway/street beautification, golf course management, economic development, etc. include staff wages, benefits, training, equipment, fuel, and other overhead type costs (you can review those details by reading further into the budget hyperlink above).

      Whereas, the numbers for snow and ice response quoted above does not include all of those values, but are only the overtime hours, materials, equipment, etc. expended during snow and ice response. At the Council meeting, Mr. Baker presented a total dollar “value” or “true cost” of snow and ice removal efforts for the 11 snow events we’ve had this season, which included all the staff hours from all city departments participating in snow and ice removal, the overtime, equipment, materials, etc. and I think it was in the $600K-$700K range.

      Also, revenues collected (i.e. service fees) or maintenance funds from the State (i.e. for road maintenance) are not included in the values shown above for budgeted expenditures that departments develop. That is, the money expected to be collected is not added to the dollars expected to be spent.

    7. Oh, but we really should not worry about all this. After all, there was a column in the DNR not too long ago that assured us that government jobs are not real jobs as the only thing government workers do is to “administrate and regulate.” So, heck, all those people driving the snow plows and clearing the streets were just administrating and regulating, making it more difficult for heroic entrepreneurs to start new businesses and hire the unemployed, obviously.

    8. citydweller says:

      Barkley: how many new workers did the city hire to plow the snow? if they did hire workers; how many of them were given full time employment for the extended future? just asking?

    9. Drew Williams says:

      Thanh is correct, the cost for snow removal services this year to date has been $778,000. While the City has undoubtedly “busted” the snow & ice budget for FY 2010, the cost has been largely absorbed by regular salary and wage rates and other equipment costs that the city has already budgeted. Jim Baker posed the question last night to City Council – what level of service should we expect when we experience large snowfall amounts? Bare pavement?

      As a public servant, we certainly have tried to learn from this year as we move forward with this years lessons, but we always have to be vigilant of the overall cost balanced against the greatest good.

      -Drew Williams, Assistant Public Works Director

    10. citydweller,

      I have no idea. Do you? Why does the answer to either of your questions matter one iota?

    11. Drew and Thanh, thanks for your responses/clarifications. Drew, you mentioned that the cost has been largely absorbed from other parts of the Public Works budget…is the 268k figure just the amount that Public Works is seeking from Council as a supplementary appropriation?

    12. Drew Williams says:

      Jeremy: yes, we are still finalizing the total costs to date (our last payroll wasn’t in that estimated cost), but that would the approximate figure for a supplemental. It is largely overtime, associated FICA, fuel, and material costs for salt.

      Thanks for your interest in this!

    13. Jeff says:

      Budgeting for snow removal – and actually getting it done – sounds like a thankless management task. Unlike private businesses that can stop providing a service if they run out of funds, snow removal must be performed regardless of budget. Then, go under budget because of lower than expected snowfall and I’m guessing people complain allocations were too high and funds should have been used elsewhere. Go over and efficiency and cost control are questioned.

      I thought the city did a great job under very difficult circumstances; if you disagree, check out how D.C. fared.

    14. Jamie Smith says:

      Speaking of one iota, what does the golf course have to do with snow removal? Not one iota!

    15. Bad news ‘Burgers! Hillbilly Hank, the Shen Valley Hillbilly just staggered out of his ‘shine cave and saw his shadow! We got lots more snow on the way.

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