SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

March 20, 2013

'A roll of the dice'

Budgeting for snowstorms is not an exact science

On Monday, Danvers had about $100,000 remaining in its snow and ice account, Town Manager Wayne Marquis said.

Given tight budgets, the longtime town manager was hoping the money would not melt away like the snow eventually will from yesterday’s late winter storm.

But yesterday, more than half that remainder was gone. After the storm, the town had spent 94 percent — or $654,000 out of a budgeted $695,000 — of its snow and ice account, much of which was spent clearing snow from the February blizzard and the 14 inches that fell on March 7 and 8.

The figure did not include salting operations overnight last night, with snow still falling yesterday afternoon, said Department of Public Works Director of Operations Bob Lee.

With spring beginning today, North Shore officials are wondering if they have reached the end to spending on snow and ice removal.

Yesterday seemed more like the first day of winter than the last, with 10 inches of snow falling on Salem. The snow started light just before midnight Tuesday, then became moderate to heavy from 5 to 7 a.m. before changing over to sleet and rain at 9 a.m., according to an email from Arthur Francis, a meteorologist at Salem State University. Francis’ tally does not count the snow that fell during yesterday afternoon’s commute, which saw crews out salting and plowing again.

While Danvers may have hit the nail on the head when it comes to forecasting its snow and ice budget, other North Shore communities face having to dig out from a snow and ice deficit in the coming fiscal year.

A city or town can “deficit-spend” for snow and ice removal, according to state law and the website of the Division of Local Services of the state Department of Revenue.

However, to do this, snow and ice appropriations have to equal or exceed the amount appropriated in the prior fiscal year. That means cities and towns cannot lower the amount for snow and ice removal and then deficit-spend the next year.

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