The Town of Leesburg now knows the true cost of a 3-foot snow storm and its resulting clean-up–$696,431.
According to a staff report, the late January storm will cost $645,915 more than what was budgeted in the General Fund, and $50,516 more than the Utility Fund’s regular operating budget. These overages are attributed to clean-up efforts, repairs and emergency response related to winter storm Jonas, which left many town streets impassable for days as town crews and contractors worked to dig out.
The Town Council this week unanimously approved transfers from the town’s Unassigned Fund Balance to cover the costs.
In the General Fund, $125,000 is budgeted annually for snowstorm clean-up efforts, Town Manager Kaj Dentler said. This covers the estimated cost of two average-size snow storms of 8 to 12 inches. Years ago, the town used to budget for 8 to 10 storms per fiscal year but previous councils and former Town Manager John Wells reduced that number to two storms.
The new strategy of purposefully “under-funding” the budget for winter storms is part of the town’s long-term financial approach, Dentler said, and utilizing money from the Unassigned Fund Balance to cover any overages in the annual budget for winter storms is part of the arrangement.
“This is why you have these reserves,” Dentler told the council. “This is not a surprise. The size of the storm was a big surprise, but overall this has been our practice for the last several years to have to reimburse ourselves. This storm is just of epic proportions so that is why the bill is bigger.”
The breakdown of overages in the General Fund’s budget includes: $260,126.07 in salaries and benefits; $7,353.01 in lodging and meals; $339,270.50 in contracted snow removal fees; and $164,165.43 in repairs and supplies.
For the Utility Fund, the overages included: $31,560.59 in salaries and benefits; $637.41 in lodging and meals; and $18,317.96 in repairs and supplies.
According to the staff report, the town is working with Loudoun County government to submit for reimbursement to the Federal Emergency Management Administration and also look into other opportunities to cover some of the storm costs. But any reimbursement is not expected to come within the current fiscal year, the report reads.
The council is still expected to discuss the town’s response to the storm in terms of snow removal efforts, which was widely criticized as some neighborhood streets were impassible for close to a week.