Northerners may laugh at Southerner’s inability to function with snow, but there are real reasons that explain why Southern states appear to shut down with wintry precipitation.
Most major Northern cities accumulate over three feet of snow each year. Boston, Mass. averages 43.8 inches a year, New York City, N.Y. averages 63.8 inches, but Chapel Hill, N.C. averages only 3.7 inches. However, the ratio between snow accumulation and days off from school due to snow are different from state to state. Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools have already had 10 school days off this year due to weather conditions. New York City Public Schools on the other hand has only had six snow days in the past 13 years.
So why can’t Southern states, like Chapel Hill, handle snow like NYC can? Besides the fact that Northerners are accustomed to navigating around in snow, and various modes of transportation are offered, the government also plans and allocates money for these conditions.
In New York City the snow removal budget is set by the City Charter. The City Charter uses a simple formula of averaging the prior five years’ actual expenditures on snow removal to come up with next years’ budget. The total budget for NYC’s snow removal for this winter is $58 million. Out of that $58 million, the NYC Sanitation Department was given $38.9 million to clean the streets. So far, the Sanitation Department has gone almost double over the budget with $75.7 million being spent so far.
The big tab is due to the fact that New York City has already gathered 57 inches of snow and has been through five major snowstorms this winter. The two most costly expenses have been the $32.8 million spent on employee overtime and $20 million for 333,092 tons of rock salt — at $59.90 a ton. The city paid an additional $10.9 million to rent snow-moving equipment, $4.3 million on truck parts and $1.2 million on day laborers to shovel sidewalks. New York City also manages over 3,500 plow blades and v‐plows, 424 large salt spreaders, 36 large and small snowmelters, and 50 skid‐steer loaders. All of this inventory for ice and snow equipment requires routine maintenance and repair which adds to the enormous bill.
North Carolina’s Department of Transportation (DOT) plans the states budget by using a formula similar to NYC’S City Charter. The DOT budgeted $36 million for this seasons’ winter preparation and storm clean, with $30 million of that being used for ice and snow removal. The DOT has currently spent $30.1 million of its allowance with a bulk of that ($12.9 million) being used in early February when the state received four to seven inches of snow. During the storm, the DOT sent out more than 2,100 employees, 1,100 vehicles and 85 graders to North Carolina roadways. The DOT also spread more than 13,000 tons of salt, and had 270 contractors on alert. Should the DOT go over budget, money comes out of the maintenance budget that is typically reserved for mowing, litter cleanup, tree clearing, potholes, and general road upkeep and repairs.
It is important to remember when looking at this data that North Carolina’s budget covers the entire state, which is around 53,819 sq miles, while the New York City’s budget is for an area of just 469 sq miles. While it is true that New York City and other states do get more snow, they not only plan for the weather, but they also have the infrastructure and the equipment to handle large amounts of snow.
As weather changes become more drastic and severe, the DOT, City Council and other budgeting offices must be able to make changes and find way to better prepare both highly populated areas and rural parts of states quickly and safely.
“We’re going to have to do some reassessment of how this will impact our long-term budget,” said North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory during a news conference to detail the state’s response to the snow that hit much of North Carolina in early February.
However, the recently released Governor’s Recommended Budget for 2015-2017 showed that funds for snow removal on both primary and secondary roads is to be adjusted (7.67 percent decrease on primary roads and 7.63 percent on secondary roads) when compared to the 2014-15 certified budget for this program.
A survey done by the Triangle Business Journal showed that a
Triangle Business Journal
Results: How would you grade North Carolina’s winter storm response?
7 percent D