Belmont’s Snow/Ice Removal Budget ‘Burned Through’ in a Fortnight of Storms

When calculating the snow and ice removal budget each year, the town looks at historical data and prices for raw material before determining that final figure.

This winter, the town’s determined it would likely clear about 45-inches of snow as well as sanding and salting the roads for approximately $600,000.

“You make your best estimate and go with it,” said Belmont Town Administrator David Kale last week.

“Some years, $600,000 is OK,” said Kale.

But with any prediction, sometimes you get it right and sometimes the odds get thrown out the window.

In the past two week, Mother Nature decided to throw a wooden shoe into the Belmont budget maker’s forecasting machinery, dumping nearly a season’s worth of snow – a whopping 40 inches – during the fortnight.

With Belmont’s Department of Public Works crews and approximately 40 private contractors worked around the clock attempting to clear the town’s streets and main sidewalks, the dual storms have busted the town’s snow removal budget, as well as making it more difficult for the school district to resolve its river of red ink.

“While we are still receiving bills from our vendors and calculating the costs, it’s likely true we’ve already burned through the $600,000 budgeted for removing snow,” said Kale after the Warrant Committee meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 4.

Fiscal 2015 will mark the second year running the snow and ice budget will end up in the red. Last fiscal year, Belmont spent $709,000 on snow removal, $142,000 over the budgeted amount.

And with still half of winter to come, Kale said the town is likely facing a significant hole to fill in the account by the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

But residents should not fear Belmont roads being left untouched until spring once the snow and ice account spends its final dollar. The annual town budget has a reserve funds account – a sort of rainy day fund – for just these sorts of incidents. The account, which has $400,000, can be tapped through a transfer of funds requiring Town Meeting approval.

While it appears the town will find the money for snow and ice removal, the same reserve account was being eyed by the Belmont School District as it currently sits in a $500,000 hole midway through its fiscal 2015 budget, according to Anne Lougee, the School Committee’s representative to the Warrant Committee.

With costs associated with the rapid increase in enrollment in Belmont schools, including nearly $1 million in added expenditures in the special education line item, the district had been counting on the reserve account to cut the deficit.

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