The Capital Region’s lack of snow this winter has been bad for skiers, but good for local budgets.
Last year’s record-breaking snowy, cold winter depleted highway departments’ supplies, including road salt and sand, in several municipalities more than a month before the season was over.
So far, this year is looking to have the opposite effect.
“I was just having this conversation with our highway superintendent last week, and basically, the lack of snow has been a good problem,” Duanesburg town Supervisor Roger Tidball said Monday. “With the lack of snowfall, we’ve saved on the overtime budget, and are pretty stockpiled for the year with supplies.”
Tidball said the town has seen savings overall so far this winter on fuel, materials, and wear and tear on equipment.
In December, the supervisor said around 50 hours of overtime were saved from the nearly snowless month.
“They’ve been out on nights it was supposed to be icy, but the guys have been staying busy with the lack of snow by cutting brush, or getting ahead of the little things that help throughout the year,” Tidball said. “Any money not used for winter this year will roll over into the Highway Department’s winter fund to be used this November and December, or whenever it’s needed.”
Glenville town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said the lack of snow has been kind to the town’s budget.
“We’ve had a mild winter so far, so we’re slightly ahead of budget — particularly on materials,” Koetzle said Monday.
Last year, the town was about $40,000 over in the budget line for road salt, which the supervisor said was offset by the drop in fuel prices that occurred over the summer and fall.
Joe McQueen, the director of communications with Schenectady County, said the county’s $300 million budget wasn’t affected by last year’s greater need for road salt and other materials, so this year’s slow winter hasn’t offset anything.
“The county’s budget is sort of a living document that’s constantly changing,” McQueen said. “It’s a larger entity, so it’s not like there was a hole left in the budget from last year when extra had to be put toward snow and ice removal.
“Money can be moved around easily in that situation. . . . Maybe an employee left and there was some turnover there, and they saved on other areas,” he added. “We have no clue about this year yet, but if there are savings, it will stay in the Highway Department fund and be used for an unexpected event that pops up or be a cushion for next year.”
With the way this winter is going, Koetzle said Glenville anticipates some savings if the mild conditions continue, which would become part of the town’s surplus, or saved to be used for next winter.
However, with seven weeks of winter left, the supervisor said it’s too early to tell.
“We’re not out of the woods with savings yet because we don’t know what’s ahead of us,” Koetzle said. “We’ve had summer storms where we’ve had rain wash out roads or trees come down. We’ve had to deal with other emergencies outside the winter that we still may see.”
Niskayuna Supervisor Joe Landry said because the budget doesn’t line up with the seasons, it usually balances out.
“Last year between January and March, we had more snow than was anticipated, but this past November and December we had less,” Landry said. “Our budgetary process was fine, and we didn’t have any salt shortages last year.
“Our Highway Department does a good job of planning and making sure we have enough salt and sand available,” he continued. “They’re good at anticipating what we need.”
With winter and possible snowfall at the beginning and end of the calendar, the supervisor said any savings from this year won’t be clear until next year at this time.
“Our budget goes from January through December, and we anticipate snow January through maybe March, but then again in November and December,” Landry explained. “As of right now, this is less snow and salt use than what we expected, but we still have the end of the year.
“We’ll see what happens,” he added. “Time will tell.”
Reach Gazette reporter Kate Seckinger at 395-3113, [email protected] or @KateSeckinger on Twitter.
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Categories: News, Schenectady County