Madison Budget Saves From Lack Of Snow

A snow-free December has helped Madison’s budget after major storms earlier this year had city leaders concerned.

No major storms have hit Madison this season, unlike in recent years, when several inches of snow were already on the ground.

It’s good news for the city, because the city budgets for five major storms per calendar year — and four of those storms socked Madison in January and February, Mayor Paul Soglin said.

“There just isn’t a lot of room left (in the budget),” Soglin said. “We’ve got enough money for one more storm, and that’s it.”

City planners dipped into the reserve fund to cover snow removal costs in 2009 and 2010, but the lack of December snow means fewer costs.

Two storms — one that dumped 4 inches of snow and another 8 inches — had fallen in Madison by this time a year ago. Big storms cost an average of $300,000 to clean up, said Chris Kelley, the city’s streets operations manager.

“That’s $600,000 we haven’t spent that we spent last year at this time,” Kelley said. “That’s a huge amount of money.”

The city budgets about $5.5 million a year for snow removal, he said. Salting the roads typically costs $100,000 per application, and storms with ice and snow are the most costly, he said.

“Some of our employees might do the snow dance, but for all city residents, this is actually a good thing,” Kelley said.

Streets crews earn overtime pay after snowstorms, meaning they might have less money during the holiday season if snow holds off, he said.

The snow removal budget starts again in January.