Major snowstorms this winter have proven costly for Prince George’s County as officials scramble to cover a nearly $6 million budget deficit and await news if the school year will be extended to mid-June.
The crunch came even before another snowstorm hit the region late Sunday night and into Monday, with accumulations of 5 to 8 inches in Prince George’s County, according to the National Weather Service.
Carol Terry, spokeswoman for Department of Public Works and Transportation, said that $1.5 million had been budgeted this fiscal year for snow removal, and that before the most recent snowfall, a total of $7.4 million had been spent on snow removal.
Last fiscal year’s snow removal expenses totaled $2.6 million, Terry said.
“We’ve had 23 mobilizations for snow events this season, which is the most we’ve ever had since we began keeping records in 2004,” Terry said.
The number is even higher than in 2010, when back-to-back January blizzards hit, because those were single extended mobilizations, rather than separate events, Terry said.
Terry said an estimate on the additional costs incurred from the most recent snowfall would be assessed later this week.
Thomas Himler, deputy chief administrative officer for Budget, Finance and Administration, said the budget office will look for excess funds in DPWT and other departments.
“We look at how much Public Works has spent across all spending categories, and see if there are any savings. Then we look to see if there are any savings in other agencies that can cover the balance,” Himler said.
Himler said if enough savings cannot be found across all departments, the county will consider using its fund reserve or other sources.
The county currently maintains a $275 million fund balance, of which $83 million are unassigned funds, Himler said.
Prince George’s County Public Schools declared its eighth school day cancellation following Monday’s snowfall. One non-school day, set aside for teacher planning, was also cancelled, according to Max Pugh, PGCPS spokesman.
If no further snow days accrue, school would end June 17, barring any waiver of severe weather days, Pugh said.
State law mandates that school be in session for at least 180 days, but the Maryland State Department of Education can grant a hardship waiver to school districts struck by severe weather.
The last year PGCPS received a waiver for lost snow days was during the 2009-2010 school year, when MSDE waived five of the school system’s nine snow days because of the January blizzards, Pugh said.
Pugh said the school district will likely apply for a waiver for some of its school days within the next two weeks to allow for any future snow outbreaks.
“As soon as we can comfortably say the weather has warmed up and there’s no chance of snow,” Pugh said.