What does a no-snow winter mean for the city budget?
This year New York City is on pace for its second-mildest winter ever, according to the National Weather Service. A mere seven inches of snow have fallen on Central Park this season. High temperatures across the region have already savaged business that depend on snow, from ski slope operators to hardware stores. But surely the light snowfall has been a blessing for the budget of the city’s Department of Sanitation – or has it?
Today’s Daily Q asks: How has city spending on snow removal been affected by an unusually warm winter season?
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What we found
Barring a late snowpocalyse, New York is on pace to hold on to millions of dollars it had already budgeted. That’s because the City Charter requires the city to set the cleanup budget each year based on the average snow removal expenditures during each of the five preceding years.
Meanwhile, the mayor and City Council do have discretion over the overtime budget for Sanitation workers who clear the streets. Since 2007, the funds allocated for overtime have fluctuated between $15 and 19 million. But in 2010 the city was hit with a late December blizzard so severe that it shut down parts of the city for days. Mayor Bloomberg, who was harshly criticized for his handling of the storm, had set aside $17.2 million for overtime in the FY 2011 budget. At the end of that winter the city needed $64.5 million to cover all its overtime costs. Since, then the mayor and council have budgeted more generously: $20.5 million for this year and a proposed $30.9 million for the next.
Overtime funds that are not used return to the Department of Sanitation, instead of going back to city’s general fund.