Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Soft Winter Results in Hard Cash

Ignoring the unnerving sense that the climate may be going through drastic changes, there were many benefits of this past mild winter. Chiropractor visits were down due to the reduction in pulled out backs due to shoveling. The number of magical snowmen was reduced in size, which allowed the police force to spend more time on addressing day to day safety and security issues as opposed to fielding calls about snowmen in top hats prancing and dancing down the town streets. On average, many cities in the US saw less than half their average snow. New York City's annual snow average is 25.1 inches. This past winter it was 7.4 inches. Boston has an annual average of 43.8 inches and ended this year with only 9.3 inches. Salt Lake City and Minneapolis average 55.8 and 54.4 inches, respectively. Minneapolis only saw 22.3 inches and Salt Lake had 24.8 inches. The result of these seasonally lower snow falls is more cash in the city's budget because they did not have to spend money on salting the streets and removing snow. In fact, the last two years before this year, many cities were in the red because of the expense of snow removal. In fact, some had to get emergency funding from the state. For example, Lake Tahoe spent about $700,000 this year on snow removal or 24% less than last year. Milwaukee came $2 million under budget for snow removal. Iowa spent only $19.4 million in snow removal this past winter compared to $31.6 million the year before. Also, the cost of maintenance of the streets has reduced because the harsh winter cause wear and tear on the roads, which creates potholes. The other benefits is that many road projects where able to get a jump start this year due to the mild winter. It is easier to do road work when it is 40 degrees and clear skies vs. 10 degrees and driving snow. Unfortunately, the industries that rely on snow for tourism did suffer. And that does has an impact on the states' and cities' tax coffers due to lower taxable revenue. Therefore, for some of these cities, the budget windfall was reduced by the decrease in taxable revenue. In the end, this mild winter provided some form of relief to city and state budgets and the backs of many Americans. Does this mean that cities and states are reducing their snow removal budgets for next winter? The answer is no. In this environment, the only thing that we can count on is the weather is never predictable. Personally, I would not mind another snow free winter. No offense, Frosty. Source: Wall Street Journal, Tuesday, May 1, 2012.

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