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Winter Storms Push Reading Over Snow Removal Budget

Despite being over budget, residents won't likely feel the impact on their wallet.

There have been several storms this winter.
There have been several storms this winter.
Winter has brought plenty of the white stuff. And that costs plenty of the green stuff. So what impact has this winter had so far on Reading taxpayers' wallets?

According to Town Manager Bob LeLacheur, though Reading has already spent more than its allotted snow removal budget, there residents won't suffer the consequences as a result.

"It's impossible to predict what winter will bring," said LeLacheur. "We fund on an increasing schedule to loosely come close. We don't want to overspend, because that means we aren't offering some other service that the town wants."

LeLacheur said the town's budget for this 2013-14 winter season was about $600,000. Several storms have forced the town to utilize about $25,000-$50,000 more than that as of last week.

According to the Town Manager, however, the process to rectify this is a fairly simple one. The town is authorized to deficit spend, meaning no immediate action is needed to fund snow removal for the rest of the winter.

Instead, during the spring Town Meeting, town officials can propose a way to pay for the additional budget and residents will be able to approve it. That normally means simply moving funds from another area instead of asking for additional funds.

In a worst case scenario, towns are able to put off paying for snow removal for a full year, but LeLacheur said Reading has plenty of funding available and there is no need to do that.

LeLacheur praised the work that Department of Public Works employees have done this year during a challenging season.

"We do more clearing downtown than most do," said LeLacheur. "The guys have it down pretty much to a science. Weather is unpredictable, and in a lot of cases they are working 30 hours in a row."
Ron Powell January 14, 2014 at 12:27 PM
It is actually prudent for towns to run a small deficit (emphasis on small -- about 10-20 percent of the budget item) in their snow and ice removal budgets: it is the one budget item that by law is allowed to carry a deficit over into the next year. If you budget too much, you have less funding for other important services that must be fully funded, such as the school budget, the library, and police and fire. If you run a small deficit in the snow and ice removal budget, you can carry that deficit over into the next year without affecting funding for these other services. Snow and ice removal is a volatile cost, but the Town can make it less volatile by negotiating pay-by-the-inch contracts and hedging costs with weather puts.

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