Saint John may put a freeze on hiring to help make up a $2.2-million deficit in the city’s snow-clearing budget.

City engineers say Saint John normally faces about 10 snowstorms over an average winter. This winter there were 19 snowstorms, plus three cases where heavy rain was immediately followed by freezing temperatures.

The cost in overtime, fuel, sand and salt caused the snow-clearing budget to jump to $8 million from the estimated $5.8 million.

Bill Edwards, the acting city manager, said the deficit will have to be made up somewhere and that could include a temporary freeze on hiring.

"We will task everyone in the city to try and tighten up and look for savings such that we can come in on budget overall at the end of the year,” he said.

Council debated ways to trim the city’s budget to make up for the over-expenditure in the snow-clearing budget.

Coun. Bill Farren said the fleet replacement program could be another area where the city could save some cash this year.

He said council could shorten the list of replacement vehicles by cancelling plans to replace 14 city vehicles this year, mostly pickup trucks.

"There's things here that we can do without just for a year,” he said.

"Just to get us over this $2.2 million hump. Can we not drive a half-ton [truck] for one more year?"

However, Farren’s proposal fell flat as it received no support.

The chief city engineer argued the municipality doesn't have enough pick-up trucks now and regularly has to rent them.