Mother Nature’s one-two snowstorm punch has wiped out Wichita’s snow removal budget, creating a quarter-million-dollar deficit that means service and staff cuts in the city’s public works department.
City Manager Robert Layton said Monday that the tab for snowstorms over the past five days will run taxpayers a half-million dollars. Add in the $229,000 the city spent in January for snow and ice treatment – on weekends with extensive overtime – and the city’s $560,000 snow removal budget is gone, replaced by a deficit of about $170,000.
The two snowstorms of the past week have been costly, Layton said – including salt and sand for the city’s streets, repairs to the city’s street equipment, employee overtime and more than 20 contractors hired last week to help plow streets.
And winter cannot be counted upon to be done, the city manager said.
“If we plan on another snow event or two, we could be as high as $250,000 over budget,” Layton said.
The deficit means a certain “reprioritizing” of public works projects and staffing, the city manager said.
“We won’t know for sure where we stand until we’re into budget revision time in April and May,” Layton said.
Some options include reducing street maintenance funds.
“We’d prefer not to do that,” Layton said. “If we need to, we’ll look for other opportunities to reprioritize.”
“That’s nothing we like to do,” Vice Mayor Janet Miller said. “But we have to make sure people can get to the essential places they need to get.”
There also could be personnel adjustments, including leaving some vacant public works jobs open.
Layton said he hasn’t been reduced to standing at his office window in City Hall, demanding the snow stop falling.
“But I’ll bet everyone else in Wichita would like it to stop,” he said, chuckling.