Road salt in better supply than funds to pay for it

City budgets $5.8B to plow, salt city streets
Road salt in better supply than funds to pay for it

Even before the snow flies this winter, the city of Madison is over its road salt budget thanks to the rough conditions the city had at the end of last winter.

In a normal year, the city uses road salt to clear away ice 25 to 27 times, but between January 1 and the end of March crews used salt 42 times. That leaves them at least 15 “salt events” over budget with two months remaining in the fiscal year.

“We will plow the streets, they will be safe. We don’t stop because we run short of money,” said Chris Kelley, street superintendent for Madison.

The city budgets $5.8 million each calendar year to plow and salt city streets. The budget includes using salt 25 to 27 times, along with seven major snow plow events per year.

So far this year, the plowing portion is under budget as they operated for slightly more than five major snow events. The excess funding for plowing is helping to offset the increase in salting.

Officials are also watching the rising cost of road salt, which has gone up in some areas as much as 14 percent.

“We knew it was going to be higher because of how much salt was used and everybody was looking to get extra salt last year and a lot of people ran out so we knew it was going to be higher per tonnage,” Kelley said.

Madison was able to reduce the price they paid for this year’s supply by joining a bid put in by the state in April. They are paying $72 a ton this year, which is up from $63 last year. That increase means $142,000 more is needed in the 2015 budget for road salt.

Until the 2015 budget year begins in January, city officials hope the last two months of 2014 don’t result in too many more snow and ice storms.

“We do get nervous, there’s no doubt about it, but the main thing is public safety is number one, and we’ll take care of that and then we’ll go back and ask council for extra money for what we need that comes from the general fund,” Kelley said.