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Mild winter big windfall for budgets

Salt, OT savings piling up

– The mild winter brought not only balmy temperatures and early flower blooms, but also hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings for local governments.

As the warmer temperatures kept residents from having to shovel their driveways, it also kept city and county governments from having to send out crews to salt or plow roads.

In Fort Wayne, city government spent $312,746 less on salt and overtime for road crews this winter than it did in the previous winter. From December through March, the city spent $133,256 on overtime and $690,000 on salt. During the same period last winter, the city spent $1.1 million on the two items combined.

Allen County government has spent $232,804 on salt this year, compared with $543,873 in 2011. Mike Green, county spokesman, said that while the county salt barns are full, the county might still have to spend some money for salt in November or December this year. Even so, he said it would be unlikely to hit 2011 levels.

“I think it’s safe to take a look at this and say we’re going to save a pretty good amount of money,” he said.

In addition, the county saved about $31,000 on overtime costs for the past winter than the previous one, using the months November through March.

The county will likely find a place to use those savings on needed highway maintenance.

“Absolutely we have more work than funding,” said Dan Allen, with the county highway department.

Toni Mayo, spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said the state has seen similar savings in overtime and salt, although the department has yet to compile that information.

Regardless, she said any savings from these items will not result in substantial savings for the state this year.

“With the price of gasoline, a majority of what we have saved we have to put back in fuel,” she said.

While it matters to the county budget how many times it snows more than how much it snows, the county should be coming out ahead, Green said.

“It has certainly been a better winter season for us,” he said.