PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Winter means snow. Snow means salt and worker overtime to clear the roads.
And all that costs money.
So how bad is it this year, particularly when many communities already have other budget challenges?
Every time the snow hits the streets, think dollars — lots of dollars — like $5.5 million in the city of Pittsburgh.
“It’s been a little bit tougher than last year,” Pittsburgh Budget Director Scott Kunka told KDKA Money Editor Jon Delano. “Last year we had a couple of really large snowfalls, but actually in the public works operation a series of small snow falls actually cost you more money than the large snow falls.”
Kunka says snow means road crews and often overtime like a triple whammy on Washington’s Birthday.
“Maybe $54 an hour if you’re called out on a holiday and that’s about three times what their normal pay would be,” he said.
But even without the holiday overtime, lots of snow events boost the cost.
“They’re putting in some more hours than they usually had in previous winters and also it’s hard on the equipment, too,” Mt. Lebanon Public Works Director Tom Kelly said. “Our equipment is constantly on the road, and that does take its toll.”
Kelly says overtime is up and, so far, he’s used 6,000 tons of salt.
“Typically, in a winter we use between 5,700 and 8,000 tons of salt, so this is a little bit higher than usual,” adds Kelly.
Kunka says it’s worse in the city.
“Like some of the other municipalities, we are probably about maybe 50 percent over budget than what we’ve imagined. We’re okay with the salt. It’s just finding a way to pay for it,” says Kunka.
“It’s been another tough winter,” says Shaler Town Manager Tim Rogers.
Rogers says they’re already over budget on manpower — and close on salt — but safety gets priority over budgets.
“I saw at least eight cars stuck on the hillside because the salt truck had not gotten there yet, and I’m pretty sure they weren’t worried about the budget,” he said. “They want that road cleared now.”
That is certainly true.
Clearing the roads of snow and ice is job one in the winter.
Municipal leaders say that they will just have to find other ways to make up the extra expense without raising taxes.
Right now, the greatest worry is — when will this winter end?
Again, every snow event costs thousands of tax dollars and it would help the bottom line to keep that temperature above freezing.