Lack Of Snow In 2012 Was A Financial Windfall For Some

All that snow that failed to fall during the winter of 2012 didn’t just save you from straining your back while shoveling. It also helped cash-strapped state and local governments save millions of dollars that would normally have been spent plowing and salting.

According to the Wall Street Journal, cities from Boston to Sioux Falls, SD, only spent a fraction — often less than half — of the money they had budgeted for snow and ice removal in 2012.

This means that not only is there excess money in the coffers, but there are still mounds of rock salt and other items that can be used next year. So even if the Winter of 2013 is worse than usual, these municipalities will (hopefully) have what they need to handle it.

It also means that cities and states won’t be doing as much repair work on the roads and highways that normally take a beating during the winter months.


Ohio spent about half as much on plowing and other storm costs than the winter before. Milwaukee came in about $2 million under its $8 million budget. New York City, which had its second-warmest winter on record, saved close to $12 million of its $42.8 million snow account.

Not everyone will be able to roll these savings forward to next year, as some places are still trying to dig themselves out from the debt blizzard left over by huge snowstorms in 2011.

And the lower-than-usual snowfalls are a double-edged sword for those locales that depend on ski money. One the one hand, it means increased snow-making — or days of lost revenue from when it was too warm to make snow; one the other hand, some of that lost tax revenue was offset by savings on plowing and salting costs.

Then there are the people and businesses whose survival depends on at least some snow sticking to the ground. They obviously took a hit this winter as most of us reveled in not having to commute to work on ice-slicked streets and sidewalks.

The city of Burlington, VT, saw the unseasonably warm weather as a chance to get a jump on work that would normally not have begun until the spring.

“We ended up doing outside work that we would almost never be able to do in a normal winter,” the city’s Director of Public Works tells the Journal.

So here’s hoping that the winter of 2013 behaves sensibly and snows just enough to keep people skiing and occasionally plowing and shoveling — but only on the weekends, please.

Less White Equals More Green []


Edit Your Comment

  1. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    Hooray for global warming!

  2. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    For me, it was a windfall for my back. I didn’t miss taking a pick axe to the foot of ice at the end of my driveway.

    Our township plowed 2 or 3 times, and only had to scatter salt and stones a few times. So we can keep all the antiskid and salt until next year, and if it’s a particularly bad winter in 2012-2013, we still won’t break the budget.

    • bluline says:

      It was a huge windfall for the guy who plows my driveway. We paid him $250 last fall for unlimited plowings, any time the snow was one inch or more deep. He plowed twice, and both times if he’d waited a few hours the sun would have done the job for him. We definitely lost money on that deal.

  3. MonkeyMonk says:

    My town was able to cancel a school committee bond vote because enough excess winter funds were able to be used to make the bond unnecessary.

  4. voogru says:

    Excellent, now that money can be wasted on something else instead and next time we have a big storm we can have record deficits!

  5. cosmotic says:

    One the bright side, you don’t need to pay editors.

  6. Mr Grey says:

    I saved money on gas – ran my snow blower twice, and used only 1 3lbs bag of salt all winter.

  7. Snoofin says:

    I wonder when I can expect to see my taxes go down since they have extra money now

  8. Not Given says:

    The government and utilities are still paying for the damage from the winter before.

  9. Cantras says:

    New place, have our own driveway and sidewalk. Mate and I both go to work fairly early, don’t want to have to shovel… we got us a $300 snowthrower (labelled for up to 8 inches, video in an amazon review of it cutting through 2 feet of snow like a beast).

    I don’t think we got 8 inches of snow all winter, let alone in one day.

  10. Mark702 says:

    That money “saved” will be spent in the summer on things like running the AC for long periods of time and other summer expenses.

  11. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    This will all be offset by the mad dash for water for this summer’s major droughts.

  12. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    i wish the city would have counted that savings when they went around citing people for having grass that grew too tall in february and march because we didn’t have a freeze. instead they saw it as a chance to earn more revenue

  13. The Twilight Clone says:

    I have absolutely no sympathy for a business that faltered as a result of no snow. Here in the Twin Cities we got almost 90 inches of snow in 2010/2011 — the fourth snowiest winter on record.

    Any smart snow-related business should have been smart enough to stockpile their earnings that year, knowing that weather is highly variable. If those businesses were stupid and didn’t stow away cash, that’s their own damn fault.

    There are businesses like body shops that profit off the misfortune of others. No sympathy. I hate winter anyway.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Many of the businesses that do plow snow were able to shift to the alternate warmer weather moneymaking activities they usually do like landscaping.

      The one truck “Mr. Plows” of the world were hit hard, but that’s what happens with Mother Nature.

    • StopGougingMeThere! says:

      I love the line that body shops profit off the misfortune of others. Hmm…kind of like doctors. Body shops perform a necessary business and the last I checked I’ve never heard of a millionaire body man but I sure have heard of millionaire doctors. Nothing against the medical profession of course but since when is it wrong for someone to run a legitimate business that serves a purpose?

  14. HogwartsProfessor says:

    We had a blizzard in February 2011 that dumped 10 inches of snow on us. I shoveled twice in that one day. That was basically it. It was like it used it all up in that one storm. I can’t ever remember hearing the word “blizzard” used around here before.

  15. IowaCowboy says:

    Springfield, MA should invest in tornado sirens with the unused snow removal funds considering the mild winter and the June 1st tornado that hit last year.

  16. StopGougingMeThere! says:

    The savings depends on how your municipality buys it’s road salt. I went into town hall about a month ago to pay my water bill and while there I asked the Road Supervisor if he was glad they saved big this winter. He told me that the State of NY requires a minimal purchase per year for road salt whether they need it or not and for my Township it was to the tune of $80k minimum so there was virtually no savings. Then he said they’re spreading the salt at any hint of a storm whether he needed to or not just to use it but when I pointed out that there’s still that little thing called cost of labor and equipment wear and tear (not to mention how much I hate driving a white crusty car) he had no response to that. I love how short sighted bureaucrats can be!

  17. donovanr says:

    Not in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We had hardly any snow yet they went a million or so over budget. These out of control yahoos were “pre-salting” before forecasted storms. They would paint the roads white with salt and then the rain (not freezing rain) would come and wash it away. Then the few times it did snow the plows would rush madly about trying to plow the snow before it melted a few hours later. It seems that none of the elected bozos could pick up a phone and say, “Don’t pass the salt.”
    The best part of all this is that a number of years back we had a real snow and the city had to hire outside help to get things moving. So these guys cost way too much when we don’t have snow and can’t handle real snow. This is typical of how this city is run. They deny reality and then pat themselves on the back for made up successes.

    But we do have a law keeping out dangerous chickens.

  18. Major Tom Coming Home says:

    Lack of snow in the North is bad for us in Florida, it means not as many people with their money coming this way. That really cold winter a few years back was interesting though, all the aircraft at Tampa International were grounded one morning until the sun melted the ice off of their wings. We don’t have de-icing equipment.

  19. Tartan69 says:

    FWIW, smart professional snow management companies plan for both heavy winters and light winters by mixing up their plowing contracts. Half should be paid “by the inch” while the other half should be a “flat rate for the season”. This way if the snowfall is heavy, they make enough money on the “by the inch” contracts to pay for what they lose on the “flat rate” contracts. And vice versa if the snowfall is light. Generally they also use summertime landscaping contracts to further mitigate risk across their entire work portfolio. It’s just smart business.