Winter made its presence known in West Deptford last weekend, with plows and public works vehicles summoned into action, as a storm dumped about seven inches on the region.
But with the National Weather Service predicting snow and sleet over the weekend and the township snow removal budget already running low, the financial impact of the season might become something of an issue moving forward.
Prior to the significant winter storm that hit the region December 8, which was followed by an encore on the 10th, the township had already expended $38,599 in snow removal costs at the beginning of the calendar year, said Township Administrator Eric Campo.
"From my calculations out of the township’s financial software, you basically had about $29,767 to work with through the rest of this year," Campo said.
Original figures for snow removal in the 2013 budget allotted $81,166 in salary and $87,200 in operational expenses for a total of $168,366.
That amount was cut by 60 percent, to $68,366, on the strength of a Republican majority that argued the original figures were fat that needed to be trimmed.
“In the event that there’s a major calamity, I can’t predict that," Committeeman Sam Cianfarini told the public during those discussions. "Wouldn’t you rather have that money in your pocket today?”
Phone calls to Cianfarini seeking comment were not returned.
Salt, salt, and more salt
West Deptford salted the roadways from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday evening before plowing the roadways at 4 a.m. so they would be clear for the morning commute, Campo said.
Township workers salted again twice during the day Tuesday, Campo said, and then again overnight to combat re-freezing.
"You’ll have some melting during the day with the salt starting to work, but when you have the temperatures going to 19, 20 degrees overnight, black ice occurs, so you have to re-salt overnight as well," he said.
Each salting event can cost roughly $8,000, Campo said, which means that from Sunday to Tuesday the township expended an estimated $16,800 for roadway chemicals and the overtime costs of distributing them.
By those calculations, he said, "that leaves us about $12,900 for the rest of the year.
"Even though some years you may not have to plow, you have to be prepared for it on average," Campo said.
"Once you introduce and pass the budget, those charges from January, February, and March are going to still show up as year-to-date 2013 charges," he said. "That’s actual expenditures that were incurred in 2013."
Even a few weeks ago, when West Deptford transferred funds back into line items it had slashed only four months earlier, there were not any transfers made into or out of snow removal.
Still, Campo said, "If it snows, we’ve got to get out there and do that, and we will."
Don't forget leaves
The leaf collection budget, which in 2013 was also cut by 60 percent—from $100,000 to $40,000—had fallen to $16,000 by the time the transfers were made, Campo said, at which point another $20,000 was added in.
The public works department had also requested two capital purchases of new leaf vacuum machines this year, Campo said, which also didn't make the cut. Still, he said, workers are making do.
"In the operating expenses of leaf collection, you’re going to have charges to support the machines, and you are going to have to spend more money on maintenance and to keep them running," he said.
"We’re doing an effective job when we look at the tonnage reports to see what we’re collecting," Campo said. "They’re doing their job, and now most of the leaves are down.
The township will continue to collect leaves, Campo said, and should be caught up on its rotation by the end of the month. But for the next round of budgeting, he said, these challenges provide "a real-life, fresh example of why budget cuts need to be reviewed."
"It’s important to make sure that that budget is reflective of what those actual expenditures are, and that you’re also prepared for contingencies," Campo said.
"If you do overrun, you have to make plans to mitigate that," he said. "Otherwise you’re going to be charged with that overrun in the next year’s budget.
"That’s just not an ideal way to do things, and certainly you’re going to have to answer those questions to the state."