About this time last year, municipal officials up and down the Shore were wondering whether they would have to raid their budgets to pay for removal of the massive amounts of snow that had fallen in the previous few months.
This year, however, the picture is completely different. With only a few snow events resulting in total accumulations of 3 inches or fewer, money budgeted for snow removal looks like it will be saved for next winter, officials said.
Some of those officials preside over towns with calendar-year budgets, which means that although it looks as though their budgets for the end of this winter may escape unscathed, they also have to think about the beginning of next winter.
Much of a town’s snow budget goes to buying road salt, said Freehold Township Administrator Peter
Valesi. He said that cost may not be a factor this year, but he still has to be conservative.
“Our salt shed is full,” he said. “When I would normally purchase salt in September or October, I’m not going to have to do that — but if we have a bad November or December, I could have to use that, and then I would have to replace all that salt this year.”
According to the state climatologist’s website, this winter has been unusually mild winter.
The season’s mean temperature of 38.2 degrees is nearly 5 degrees above normal, making this the fourth-warmest winter on record, according to the site. Temperatures reached at least 60 degrees in one or more places in the state on 19 days this winter, according to the site.
“Were not a flake to accumulate the rest of the season, this would be the sixth-least snowy winter since records began in the winter of 1895-96,” the site read.
Monmouth County received no more than 3.8 inches in any one storm so far this season, while Ocean County received no more than 2.4 inches in any one storm, according to the site.
A few area towns, such as Freehold and Neptune, have created snow trust accounts, in which money is stockpiled to deal with snowy seasons. It is into these accounts that most savings in snow removal costs will go this year, officials said.
“The balance is about $1 million,” Valesi said of his town’s trust account. “But two bad years in a row and that could be down very quickly.”
Neptune’s chief financial officer, Mike Bascom, knows that. He said his town’s snow trust account was “virtually wiped out” by last winter’s severe weather.
Monmouth County “benefited from a mild winter,” county spokesman Bill Heine said. The county spent about $1.2 million less this year on snow-clearing operations than last year, he said.
Toms River administrator Paul Shives said he’s hopeful the first part of winter 2012-13 is as mild as this year has been. “Although it’s been great for January through March, we still have to get through the end of the year,” he said.
Shives noted that the last two major snowy years — 2010 and 2009 — saw a considerable amount of snow fall from November to December.
He said the township has saved about $500,000 in public works overtime alone, a figure he said is mainly attributable to the lack of snow.
Toms River’s snow trust fund is “wiped out,” Shives said, although the town was able to deposit $400,000 into it this year. “That trust fund had as much as $2 million in it,” he said.
Jackson will use some of the money it saved this year to create a snow trust account, said administrator Jose Torres.
State Climatologist David Robinson said the mild winter was due to the jet stream “just hanging to the north of us. It kept the cold air at bay to the north and also kept the coastal storms few and far between, and generally weak. … But nothing says we couldn’t get a late March or early April event,” he said.
The Shore area received less than half of the snow it would usually get, Robinson said.
“Two feet is roughly what we would get in an average winter,” he said, adding, “There is no such thing as normal when it comes to winter snowfall in Central New Jersey.”