County, municipalities' snow budgets exceeded following storms

A plow truck loads up on road salt at the Carroll County Highway Maintenance Facility in Westminster Dec. 10.

A storm is making its way up the eastern seaboard this week while Carroll County's municipalities and county government try to figure out how they will pay for going over their budgets for snow removal, employee overtime and salt purchases.

Every year, the county and municipalities have to budget how much money they expect to spend on salting roads, contractual snow removal services and employee overtime. AccuWeather meteorologist Dan DePadwin said the region has been hit by a "much higher than normal" amount of storm events and snow accumulation.

Carroll received at least 15 to 20 inches more than the 25 inches of snow it gets in a typical winter, he said.

Dan Hoffman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said another storm could possibly hit Maryland Tuesday. Carroll County has the potential to see anywhere from no snow at all to six inches, Hoffman said.

Because the area will be unseasonably cold Tuesday, Hoffman said, any precipitation that falls will come as snow.

This season's constant barrage of snow and ice storms has required jurisdictions to spend more than they budgeted.

Deborah Effingham, the county's budget bureau chief, said the county has spent approximately $500,000 over its $1.8 million storm emergency budget. The budget includes money for salt, overtime hours, employee meals and contractual services.

The county's budget management personnel will meet with the Carroll County Board of Commissioners to ask for a budget transfer before the end of Fiscal Year 2014 to cover the extra snowstorm costs, Effingham said. The money will come from the county's reserve contingency fund, which is used to cover unexpected costs during the year.

"We don't hold up snow removal because we go over budget," Effingham said.

The three largest areas in which the county has gone over budget are for salt purchases, contractual services and employee overtime. Those three pieces of the storm emergency budget account for $410,000 of the $500,000 that was spent over the budget, she said.

The remaining over-spent money is due to additional equipment and material purchases.

The city of Westminster was forced to revise its snow removal budget in January, according to Finance Director Tammy Palmer. The city originally budgeted $100,000 for snow preparation and removal but added an additional $41,000.

Westminster has spent $135,305 on snow removal, but there may be outstanding invoices from the most recent storm Monday, Palmer said.

Council President Robert Wack said the additional funding comes out of contingency reserves in other departments and therefore the impact of this winter's storms should be negligible in the budget overall.

Taneytown is about $50,000 over the $28,000 it allocated for snow removal, including labor and material, according to City Manager Henry Heine Jr.

And the bills are still coming, he said, adding the town will need to dip into its savings to cover the cost. At the end of FY14, the city will need to make an amendment to its budget to allow for the reserves to be used, Heine said.

Hampstead was $42,628.94 over the $20,000 the town had allocated for snow in its budget as of Wednesday. Yet, bills are still coming in and clean-up efforts are ongoing, according to interim Town Manager Kevin Hann.

The town will likely decide how to make up the difference during upcoming budget discussions, he said.

Dawn Metcalf, clerk and treasurer for the town of Union Bridge, said the municipality spent $20,482 on snow removal by the end of February, which is $8,482 more than what was budgeted for this fiscal year. The town retains local contractor Stambaugh's Inc. for the town's snow removal service.

Metcalf said Stambaugh's may have sent other bills this month related to snow removal that she has not tallied as of yet. She said at the end of the year, she may have to shift funding from other line items in the town's budget to cover the additional snow removal costs this year, or dip into town savings.

Frank Schaeffer, town manager for New Windsor, said at a meeting earlier this month that the town is more than $10,000 over its snow removal budget for the year. The town spent $16,542 for salt, overtime for the town's public works employees and supplies by the end of February - well over the $6,000 it budgeted for such costs this year.

Schaeffer said he would likely shift funds from within the public works department budget to cover the snow removal costs this year.

In Manchester, the town is over budget for each line item related to snow removal, said Kelly Baldwin, director of the town's finance department. Manchester budgets $15,000 for overtime, $15,000 for road salt and $6,000 for miscellaneous costs, such as supplies, for a total of $36,000.

Before Monday's snowstorm, the town was $19,237 in the red for costs related to supplies, overtime and road salt, she said. Baldwin said she had not calculated the costs since the last payroll period ended March 14.

Sykesville Town Manager Dawn Ashbacher said she does not have information on snow budgets readily available and could not provide the Carroll County Times with such information. Mount Airy did not respond to several messages seeking information on its snow budget.