Counties looking to extra funds for snow removal

With another significant snowfall predicted for Thursday, many county governments are looking to extra funds to help pay for continued snow cleanup.

 Howard County is among those already trying to calculate the costs. Local leaders say they hope the snow comes down between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

"That would be the ideal time," said Howard County spokesman Mark Miller. "Overtime for snow removal can be expensive, costing as much as $5,400 an hour."

Already this fiscal year -- which goes from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014 -- the Howard County has nearly doubled the number of money budgeted for snow removal, allotting $1.2 million, but spending $2.4 million.

Howard County isn't alone. Baltimore County has already spent $10 million, going $4 million over budget.

"Our first priority is public safety," said Lauren Byrd, a Baltimore County spokesperson. "We pride ourselves on having a well-managed, well run government that remains fiscally responsible."

To ensure the county can afford the cleanup, Baltimore County plans to use funding from other parts of the government, including money from its undesignated surplus.

While some counties are over budget, others have only a fraction of the funding left.

Harford County spokesperson Sherrie Johnson said officials have just $2,000 left from their $1.46 million budget, while Roberta Windham of Carroll County said they have spent $1.4 million of their $1.6 million budget.

"This upcoming storm could easily have us looking into additional funding sources," Johnson said. "We are going to continue to pushing snow and responding to citizens with the help of our general fund."

Miller said many jurisdictions, including Howard, tend to be conservative when it comes to setting money aside for weather-related emergencies.

He added that funding is based on the amount of roadway each county is responsible for.

"In our area, we are responsible for 1,100 miles of roadway," he said.

Most counties have used the funding to pay for everything from overtime to cleanup supplies like salt.

To assess how much a jurisdiction might need for weather-related emergencies, many assess what they've spend previously.

"There is no way to be exact," Windham said. "We look over the last five years and come up with the best assessment."

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