Heavy snow­falls this sea­son have put pres­sure on Wool­wich’s bud­get

The Woolwich Observer - - NEWS - FAISAL ALI

HEAV­IER SNOW­FALLS OVER THE course of 2018 have put some strain on the town­ship’s snow clear­ing bud­get as it heads into the fi­nal month of the year. The Wool­wich win­ter con­trol bud­get – the funds set aside for road plow­ing for the cal­en­dar year – dipped to $113,000 this De­cem­ber – sig­nif­i­cantly less than the amount typ­i­cally needed to cover the month.

With De­cem­ber snow clear­ing cost­ing an av­er­age of $214,000, the town­ship might find it­self go­ing into the red as it braces for the com­ing month.

“I would say that we’ve got to keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best. If we have an av­er­age win­ter based on these fig­ures, we’re prob­a­bly go­ing to go over bud­get,” said Dan Ken­na­ley, di­rec­tor of en­gi­neer­ing and plan­ning ser­vices with the town­ship.

Wool­wich uses a fiveyear rolling av­er­age to set an an­nual snow-re­moval bud­get, set­ting aside any sur­plus money in good years and draw­ing on the re­serve funds in busier years.

In the past five years, the cost of snow re­moval in De­cem­ber alone has dropped as low as $70,000 in 2015 (when the re­gion ex­pe­ri­enced the low­est snow­falls for the month since 1945), to as high as $341,000 in 2013. Last year, win­ter con­trol for the month of De­cem­ber came in at $239,000, dou­ble the $113,00 avail­able this year.

An av­er­age snow­fall this De­cem­ber would likely push the costs over bud­get be­fore the new year, forc­ing the town­ship to search for al­ter­na­tives to make up the dif­fer­ence. For­tu­nately, notes Ken­na­ley, there are usu­ally a few ways for the town­ship to find ex­cess funds to bal­ance the bud­get, in­clud­ing a re­serve fund set up for just such a pur­pose.

“A few years ago, we de­cided that we should cre­ate a win­ter con­trol re­serve. And ba­si­cally what that ac­knowl­edged was that some years we don’t spend our en­tire bud­get: so why not put that in a re­serve, to counter those years when we end up over­spend­ing our win­ter con­trol bud­get?” said Ken­na­ley.

“So the ab­so­lute first place that we would look is to that win­ter re­serve. And only if we didn’t have enough.”

Be­yond that, the town­ship would look for ad­di­tional funds within the en­gi­neer­ing de­part­ment it­self if needed, adds Ken­na­ley.

“What we would try to do is make it up within our bud­get area. So there’s al­ways ac­counts where we’re over­spent, and there’s al­ways other ac­counts where we’re un­der­spent. And hope­fully we will be able to make up [the short­fall] – if in fact some­thing like the av­er­age comes to pass,” he said.

“So only if we couldn’t take that money out of that win­ter re­serve, if we didn’t have enough money in the win­ter re­serve, that’s when we would look else­where in the en­gi­neer­ing and plan­ning ser­vices bud­get,” says Ken­na­ley. “And I’m sure that that’s as far as we’d have to go - we wouldn’t have to look out­side en­gi­neer­ing and plan­ning ser­vices to make up the dif­fer­ence.

“Un­less we get snowaged­don in De­cem­ber,” he added, hu­mor­ously. “But I doubt that that’s go­ing to hap­pen, sim­ply based on what I’ve seen in these other five years.”

Sep­a­rately, the town­ship main­tains two other bud­gets for snow re­moval, one for side­walk clear­ing in the town of Elmira, and an­other for side­walks out­side mu­nic­i­pally main­tained prop­er­ties, in­clud­ing lo­ca­tions such as parks and town­ship build­ings. How­ever, in both cases the amount is sig­nif­i­cantly smaller than the main win­ter con­trol bud­get, and typ­i­cally far eas­ier to cover in the case of bud­get over­runs. More­over, snow clear­ing in Elmira is cov­ered through a spe­cial levy to prop­er­ties in town ben­e­fit­ing from the ser­vice.

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