The Leesburg Town Council is considering whether there’s a better way to budget for Old Man Winter.
Just hours after the first snow flurries of the season fell in town, council members on Tuesday night scrutinized the budget set aside for snow removal services in town. Before the council for approval was a contract award for snow removal in the amount of $155,000. Renee LaFollette, director of the Public Works & Capital Projects Department, noted that that amount would only cover a 12-hour snow event in town. In the past few years, the department has budgeted for at least one 24-hour snow event; however, the prices received in the bids for service were not sufficient to cover the longer snow event, she said.
Town Manager Kaj Dentler said a decade ago, town staff would budget for eight to 10 snow events each year. However, at the height of the recession, and in an effort to not increase the real estate tax rate, the General Fund budget was tightened significantly and only a handful of snow events were budgeted for per year. Following the end of the snow season, public works staff typically returns to the council for a supplemental budget appropriation, if needed. This past winter, that appropriation was for more than $600,000. LaFollette reported that this past winter had 13 snow events, of which seven were more than 24 hours.
Several council members said they preferred to budget for more snow events, but Dentler reminded the council that those additional funds, in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, would need to be found in existing town revenues. Relying on the Undesignated Fund Balance, he said, is not a sustainable model.
“You’re talking almost a penny on the tax rate” if an additional $600,000 is budgeted for snow removal, he said.
“The issue for me is, if we generally know we’re going to spend $600,000 we should budget $600,000 and if we don’t use it that can be a surplus we can use for other things at the end of the year,” Councilman Tom Dunn said.
While the contract award at $155,000 passed, with only Mayor Kelly Burk dissenting, the council added an amendment directing the staff to research budgeting additional funds for snow removal.