Weather brings budget concerns

By PHIL NOBILE
With a particularly brutal winter season still underway, concerns have been raised regarding remaining salt funds and overtime accrued by Department of Public Works employees thanks to many storms over the past few months.

According to town officials, the numerous snowstorms and cold conditions across the Northeast have caused widespread budget issues, which could lead to additional required funding in the near-future.

“All of us towns and villages are experiencing overtime issues that are necessary to maintaining appropriate snow and ice removal this season,” Councilwoman Marlane Amelio, a Republican, said. “Unfortunately, there does not appear to be an end in sight with the possibility of more snow upcoming.”

Mayor Ron Belmont, a Republican, described the winter as not only the worst one he’s seen since being elected to the position in late 2011, but the worst one in his entire life.

“I don’t remember having a snow season this bad in my lifetime,” Belmont said. “In the past we’d have a storm followed by some warmer temperatures to help. Not the case this season.”

The frigid cold isn’t the only concern of the town administration, with budgetary gaps between allowed funds and hours getting closer and closer to being eclipsed.

According to numbers from Comptroller Maureen MacKenzie, the amount of salt ordered for the town was 5,000 tons from Atlantic Salt Inc., a Staten Island snow salt company. Out of a $300,000 salt budget for the year, $41,550 of the budget remains as of Feb. 25. The town’s budget runs through 2014 meaning November and December winter weather is included in the budgeting. A snow overtime budget was set at $200,000 for the year and, as of the most recent payroll period of Feb. 14, the remaining balance for overtime is $88,087.

There will most likely end up being a request for additional funding at the March 6 Town Council meeting, Belmont said, adding that he was “not concerned” about the salt and overtime amounts, and that the priority was resident safety, not budgetary constrictions.

“The most important thing we do is keep the residents safe, even if it takes more salt and more manpower hours,” the mayor said.

If additional funding is required, it will be taken from the town’s highway fund, which sits at $845,672 as of December 2012. The town’s auditors will not provide the latest fund numbers until next month, so the latest fund balance could not be provided as of press time, according to MacKenzie.

As for pothole alleviation, truckloads of coal for patching have been out when the weather permitted to fill some potholes, including six last weekend alone, according to Belmont, who admitted they were temporary fixes.

“It was the first day in a while they were able to get some work done because conditions have to be proper,” he said.

Multiple calls to Department of Public Works Comminissioner Tony Rob-inson were not returned as of press time.

CONTACT: phil@hometwn.com