By Andrew Kleine, City Budget Director

As we dig out from Snowzilla, a lot of people have asked me about how the City budgets for snow removal. Here are some key points:

  • The City's practice in budgeting for snow removal is to base the funding level on the average snow removal expenditures over the previous ten years, excluding "outlier" years.
  • Based on this practice, the City increased snow removal funding from $1.5 million to $3.5 million in Fiscal 2006.
  • Any unspent snow removal funds are carried forward from one fiscal year to the next.
  • The City maintains a Budget Stabilization Reserve that can be used to cover snow removal overages that cannot be absorbed within the General Fund budget. In 2010, the City drew $17 million from the reserve to help deal with Snowmaggedon, a series of three snowstorms. This is also the only year we received funding from FEMA for snow removal.
  • Since Fiscal 2006, snow removal costs have been within available funding in six out of ten years.
  • Snow removal funding was reduced in Fiscals 2011-13, when the City faced huge budget shortfalls related to the Great Recession.
  • Snow removal funding has increased modestly since Fiscal 2013, but is about $1 million below the average expense for Fiscal 2003-15, excluding the outlier years of Fiscal 2010, 2014 and 2015 ($2.8 million vs. $3.8 million).
  • Fiscal 2016 marks the third year in a row and the fourth time in seven years that snow removal expenses have been more than five times the budgeted amount.
  • Including Fiscals 2014 and 2015 (still excluding Snowmaggedon, when costs ran to nearly $33 million), the average cost since Fiscal 2003 is $5.5 million - about $400,000 per inch. Given the recent frequency of heavy snowfall, this might be a more appropriate funding level for snow removal.
  • It should be understood that the City faces a significant General Fund budget shortfall for Fiscal 2017, and increasing snow removal funding (in this case, by $2.7 million) would require reductions elsewhere in the budget, potentially causing service reductions and even layoffs.

Cost of Snow chart

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