Budgets in the snow
Towns managing to keep heads above the drifts
Towns in Conception Bay North have been managing to remain within their snowclearing budgets thus far this year, despite the heavy and consistent snowfalls since the middle of January.
But that could change if the white stuff keeps coming in large quantities, and most municipalities are hoping for a break in the weather sooner rather than later.
The average snowfall for the month of February is 67 centimetres. But by Feb. 14, some 90 cm had blanketed the region,
Public works crews in Bay Roberts have spent more time clearing snow in February than they did during the entire winter of 200910, said Nigel Black, the town’s chief administrative officer.
But he said it’s still too early in the season to say how February’s snowfall will affect the town’s overall snowclearing budget for fiscal 2011.
No question February has been the “ busiest month for snow removal,” Black said.
Bay Roberts has budgeted $100,600 for snow clearing this year. “ That’s the labour component,” Black explained, adding, “equipment is lumped in with general public works costs.”
The town also budgets approximately $25,000 for sand and salt.
As for extra labour costs, the chief administrative officer pointed out, “all the guys (work crews) are working whether it’s snowing or not snowing.”
Pointing out the budget is for all of fiscal 2011, Black says, “we’re just barely into it — only two months into it and it’s too early at this stage...” to say how it’s going to impact the overall snowclearing budget.
Even after this winter is over, Black noted they still have the months of November and December to consider in the 2011 fiscal year.
In Harbour Grace, Lester Forward has his fingers crossed for a break in the snowfall.
“ There’s only so much (snow) you can push back with a plow,” the town manager noted, before you have to bring in other heavy equipment like large front-end loaders to remove it to widen streets.
The town hasn’t quite reached that stage yet, but they’re getting there.
“ So far we haven’t gotten into an overtime situation,” Forward said. He explained snowclearing crews work on a straight time basis for their first 40 hours. After that it’s time-and-a half for overtime hours worked.”
Although a lot of snow has accumulated since the beginning of February, Forward said the town is on budget so far this year.
“ In fact we may even be a shade down in costs.”
Left over from last year
The town manager noted they came out of last year with about $ 25,000 left over in the snowclearing budget.
Forward said the town has budgeted $176,000 for snowclearing out of a $2.5 million budget this year. That covers everything including wages, all expenses, fuel, repairs, sand and salt.
Forward said the single largest expense in the snowclearing budget is wages, which accounts for $80,000, almost half of the total snowclearing budget. He said wages and fuel are the two largest expenses in the snowclearing budget. When the snow piles up and heavy equipment has to be brought in to remove it, “we go through fuel like you wouldn’t believe.”
But Forward noted snowclearing is one service towns do not have a choice in providing, even when it means having to exceed their budgets.
“ You have to provide the best service you can with the resources you got,” he said.
Carbonear is doing “pretty good” so far this year with the money it has earmarked for snow- clearing, according totown administratorCynthia Davis.
She explained the town bugets for five months of snowclearing — January, February and March; November and December. After the first two months, the town would expect to have spent approximately 40 per cent of the budget. But Davis estimates expenditures at under 30 per cent of the 2011 snowclearing budget by the middle of February, despite the heavier than normal snowfall this month.
She said this year the town budgeted $321,500 for snowclearing out of a total operating budget of $5.4 million. Some $75,000 of that goes towards sand and salt, which is pur-
chased from the province.
Holding the line
In Victoria, town clerk Sharon Snooks says her town is still well within its snowclearing budget for 2011.
The town budgeted $35,000 this year for supplies such as sand and salt — equipment is included with general public works expenses. And they’ve only spent about a quarter of that so far. “So we’re well within our budget.”
Unless it keeps snowing from now until May, Snooks said she expects the town will be able to remain within budget.