Winter storms blow city budgets in Prince George’s County -- Gazette.Net


With the last of the winter storms apparently behind them, some Prince George’s County municipalities are surveying the damage incurred — to their bank accounts.

This winter, Laurel spent almost twice what it budgeted for ice and snow removal, which means funds slated for things like road maintenance could be used to cover those costs.

During upcoming meetings, Laurel officials will consider an ordinance that would balance the $93,000 deficit in the snow and ice budget using some unanticipated state funds from vehicle registration fees and gas taxes, said Michele Saylor, director of Laurel’s department of budget and personnel services.

Paul McCullagh, Laurel public works director, said these state funds were not accounted for in the original 2014 budget and are considered additional funds that often go toward projects like road repairs.

“It’s [funding] we typically expect to get, but because it has been canceled in the past, we are not assured of getting that money,” he said. “It is a return of money we hadn’t counted on and that will help ease some of the budget shortfall.”

Laurel resident Tiffany Baker said she was pleased with the city’s response to this winter’s snow storms, but also said she thinks more money should be put toward road repairs and maintenance.

“That’s one thing Laurel is really lacking,” she said. “They can do a lot better.”

Baker said she was surprised by the total amount the city spent on snow and ice removal.

“It really doesn’t seem normal,” she said. “But that’s life.”

Other county municipalities are facing the same predicament as Laurel.

Bowie exceeded its snow and ice removal budget by about 55 percent this winter, or $179,000, said Dan Layton, acting public works director.

John Fitzwater, Bowie assistant city manager, said the City Council will meet in June to decide how to re-allocate funds to cover this deficit and any others. Fitzwater said it is too early to tell which accounts will have surpluses that could be used to cover the deficit caused by the winter storms, but said the money will likely come from the street maintenance account.

Robert Stumpff, College Park’s director of public works, said he does not have final numbers, but think the city exceeded its salt budget by about $15,000, or 50 percent and slightly overspent on labor for snow and ice removal.

“We have always budgeted a little more per mile [for labor] than some of the other municipalities, so we’ve had a surplus on that particular account,” he said. “This year, we won’t.”

For some municipalities, like Upper Marlboro, recalling problems with previous winters paid off.

Stephen Sonnett, president of the board of commissioners, said the town came through the winter under-budget, spending around $2,000 of the $5,000 in its snow and ice removal account. The city has about two miles of residential roads, Sonnett said, and most of the other roads are owned by the state or county.

“We’re a small town and we have a very efficient work crew,” he said. “We budget that much because several years ago there was an ice storm and several trees had fallen and we had to hire outside crews.”

While Saylor said Laurel is considering an approximate $13,000 budget increase in the snow and ice removal category for next year, Stumpff said College Park won’t make any adjustments.

“We left it exactly the same,” Stumpff said. “We may win, we may lose.”