Snow Removal This Winter Is Costing Your Town a Fortune

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We have a lot more winter—and potentially lots more brutal cold, snow, and ice—to go through before the arrival of spring. The problem is many states and towns have already run through a season’s worth of the money and supplies needed to cope with winter storms.

The winter of 2014 has not been kind—to people or to state and municipal budgets. All around the country, lawmakers are being forced to dip into emergency funds or request more money to pay for round after round of snow removal and the salting of roads. In some cases, it’s not clear where the money will come from, nor how this winter’s budget-busting storms will impact local finances down the road.

For instance, the $2.75 million snow removal fund in Kansas City that was supposed to last through the whole winter was depleted by the first week of February. The city council had to shift emergency funds over to the snow removal fund to keep roads safe in the weeks ahead.

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In Michigan this week, some lawmakers are arguing it is necessary to send an extra $100 million to towns, cities, and counties because they’re already over budget in the snow-removal department, the Detroit News reported. The money would help road crews not only with salt and snow removal, but with the filling of potholes and cracks in the roads as well. The combination of precipitation and rapidly changing temperatures experienced in much of the country over the last two months has made for an exceptionally bad pothole season in the Midwest and the East.

The Fiscal Times recently ran down a lengthy list of other localities that have already spent more than their allotted snow-removal budget or will do so soon, including Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts, and cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia. It’s the same story in towns all over Long Island, where “taxpayers may have to make up the difference next year through their tax bill,” officials told Newsday.

In New Jersey, meanwhile, officials say that major roads might have to be shut down—not because of winter weather, but because of a shortage of salt needed to deal with winter weather. The state is in the process of seeking a special waiver from the federal government that would allow a barge carrying road salt to New Jersey from Maine. “A lot of the counties and municipalities are out of salt,” Department of Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson said yesterday, according to the Star-Ledger of New Jersey. “If we have one more storm, New Jersey is going to have to close its interstates.”

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It’s not just New Jersey scrambling to find more salt to buy, and the price of road salt has soared with demand. In early February, the going rate for a ton of salt had gone up to $175, per the Associated Press, and was expected to hit $200. Not long ago, that same ton of salt could be had for around $50.