Northborough ice, snow budget running on empty
Northborough – What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago the town's Department of Public Works (DPW) had yet to remove a flake from the 80 miles of public roadways, leaving the snow part of the snow and ice budget untouched.
This year the budget is almost already exhausted and with two more months of winter, it is a virtual certainty the account will go into the red.
"The spring just can't come fast enough," DPW Director Kara Buzanoski said. "January seems like it's already lasted about 60 days."
Buzanoski said about $15,000 remains in her department's snow and ice line item, which began the fiscal year at $183,200. She said there was about $60,000 in the account prior to the Jan. 14 snowfall, which dropped about a foot of snow on the town.
Because it involves public safety, the snow and ice line item of the DPW budget is allowed, by state law, to go into the red. Buzanoski said that last year, which featured snowfall totals way below the average, was the first year she can remember that the line item did not go into the red.
"When that happens, it gets carried over as a deficit into the next fiscal year," Buzanoski said, "and is funded with next year's dollars."
Even when snow and ice removal occurs after the town is over budget, the bills continue to get paid, Buzanoski said.
"What happen is, once the budget is over, the first step is to make a request to the appropriations committee to transfer funds to the line item," Buzanoski said. "If there aren't sufficient funds available for transfer, then they are raised and appropriated in the next fiscal year's budget. What we are doing, in essence, is reimbursing ourselves."
Buzanoski said the snow and ice removal line item of the DPW budget received slight increases the last two years, but prior to that had been level funded for many years.
"What I do is I meet with [Town Administrator] Barry [Brenner] and it's a combination of looking ahead at long-range forecasts based on historical trends, and then looking back," Buzanoski said. "In addition, we keep an eye on what we're paying or expecting to pay contractors, as well as the cost and projected cost of salt and sand."
Buzanoski said there is a member of the DPW on call every night. If police find roadways are getting slippery, they call the on-call crew member, who comes in and investigates. If it's a couple of locations, that person takes care of it.
If there is any constant precipitation, rain or snow, and the temperature is below 32, then the call is made to bring the entire crew in to begin salting and sanding.
Once the accumulation reaches two inches, especially when the forecast calls for more, plowing begins.
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