During a recent request for more snow removal funding, Southington Town Manager Garry Brumback took the time to educate the Town Council and public about how the salt shortage was affecting snow removal standards.
“It adds more visibility,” Brumback said about the process of making transfer requests when costs exceed a line item. “I don’t mind going before the council. They’ve always been very good.”
In such a severe winter and with the added challenge of a salt shortage, residents needed to be warned to expect lower standards than last year’s cleanup.
“We planned for 12 events, and are already at 22,” Brumback said. “This gave me an opportunity to state my case.”
Southington has spent its allocation of $555,000 and requested another $220,000 to bring them to the end of the season, Brumback said.
“What we don’t need we give back,” he said.
Town charters vary on how snow removal funding is handled, particularly when they exceed a budgeted amount. Wallingford officials recently also had to go before its Town Council to request $50,000 for storm overtime. But with more snow expected Sunday and Monday, Mayor William Dickinson and Brumback said they shouldn’t have to return.
“We should be OK,” Dickinson said.
Wallingford’s charter dictates that all appropriations be approved by the council, whether that is moving it from within the Public Works Department’s budget or from the town’s contingency fund, Dickinson said.
“It makes sure that everyone is well aware of what’s happening and the impact and the consequences,” he said. “It seems to work.”
But in other towns such as Cheshire, the town allocates money to the snow removal budget later in the year, so as to avoid line item budget transfers.
“We don’t have the craziness of continuously covering line items if you’re one dollar over budget,” said Town Manager Michael Milone. “Otherwise, we’d have to make multiple transfers.”
Instead, the town makes all transfers at once in July. As long as snow removal doesn’t surpass the total Public Works Department budget, a transfer isn’t necessary. Milone learned about the practice while working for the city of New Haven. Worrying about the budget “took over management prerogatives of department heads,” he said.
“You’re so caught up in moving money, you forgot how to manage the operation,” he said.
Dickinson acknowledges there can be a danger zone in the event of emergencies but there are always ways to notify councilors that the funds need to be appropriated and they generally agree, and take a formal vote later.
“There are ways to react and inform the council,” he said.
Meriden allocates $500,000 annually in a line item for snow removal, said City Manager Lawrence Kendzior. “We have exceeded that amount.”
“The practice in Meriden has been to adjust the budget before the end of the fiscal year, when the full cost of snow removal is known,” Kendzior said. “There are sufficient funds in the contingency account to cover the excess amount.”