Unruly snowfall makes budgeting a challenge

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Not only is all the snow this winter annoying, it's also proving quite costly.

Northland's News Center calls snow removal this year a "financial drain for local governments," as overtime pay, salt supplies and fuel for plows keep getting added to the bottom line.

The chief administrative officer for Duluth, Dave Montgomery, tells the station the city has nearly used up its $1.9 million snow removal budget, and will likely have to dip into the money already allotted for fall snow removal. Ashland Public Works Director Ray Hyde went even further, telling NNC they're 50-60 percent over-budget.

"I've kind of given up on the budget," he tells the station.

New Ulm has hit with nearly 9 inches of snow during the April 3-4 snowstorm. The New Ulm Journal describes snowfall as the great unknown when it comes to city budgets. City Manager Brian Gramentz tells the paper, "We can plan everything down to the last dollar, but the variable is always the weather."

Gramentz also says a spring snowfall is expected, but still impacts the budget; it'll likely cost the city later this year, come November or December, he says.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is getting hit hard, KSTP reports. Operating expenses are $1 million over budget, and have totaled more than $3.5 million since October – a 45 percent increase compared to last year, the station says.

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Manager of Field Maintenance Lee Spangrud tells KSTP about $2 million of that is simply overtime pay. Spangrud says de-icing a runway one single time, after plowing it and brooming it, costs $15,000-20,000. Every time.

But KSTP has some good news: The airlines have to cover those additional costs, not taxpayers.

And this is all without mentioning the pothole problem.

Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter recently called Minnesota "The land of 10,000 potholes." St. Paul is rehiring 21 seasonal workers to help fill its dips in the road, which in all could cost $70 million to fix. In Minneapolis, a committee approved an extra $1 million for pothole repair – the City Council has yet to approve that measure.

The frigid winter exacerbated the always problematic pothole season – state transportation officials estimated there will be twice as many holes in the road this year compared to last.

But officials are getting some help, at least when it comes to snow removal costs. Joked Gramentz to the New Ulm Journal: "We're using solar power to do it now."

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