Nfld. & Labrador

Snow-clearing budget will be blown, but no tax hikes or service cuts to offset: St. John's mayor

Thanks a lot, Snowmaggedon. Overtime, snow removal and supply costs stemming from that storm are expected to add about $5 million to the 2020 budget, the city said Wednesday.

Overtime, snow removal costs added up for city after monster storm

As if residents needed the reminder, St. John's Mayor Danny Breen warns it's only mid-February and early in the province's notoriously unrelenting winter season. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

January's blizzard will push the City of St. John's snow-clearing budget into the red, but Mayor Danny Breen says the shortfall will be made up without raising taxes or cutting services. 

"It's pretty safe to say it's been the most expensive storm we've had," Breen told reporters Wednesday, referencing the ferocious storm that prompted a state of emergency in the capital city.

The price tag on the cleanup for just that storm? Between $4 million and $5 million.

The city had set aside $17.5 million for snow clearing for 2020. The total operating budget for the City of St. John's is about $300 million. 

City officials weren't able to confirm how much has been spent within the first six weeks of the year, but Breen says it's all but certain the budget will be blown.

"I don't know the actual breakdown on the overtime cost but it's a significant part of the total bill," Breen said. 

"That and trucking costs are significant. And of course with all the equipment, we're using more diesel, we're using more equipment."

It's been a costly winter so far for the Newfoundland and Labrador capital. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

But there is some cash the city can help to offset the negative balance. 

Breen says there is $2 million in a reserve fund that can be tapped. He said some financial assistance is expected from the federal government to help with the cleanup from Snowmaggedon, but the specific dollar figure is not known at this time. 

He added that there is some leftover money, so to speak, from 2019 that will be used, too. 

While it's all but a guarantee that snow-clearing costs will exceed the budget, by how much remains to be seen. 

"Everybody should remember that this is this is only the 12th of February," Breen said.

"[What] we're finding here with these back-to-back events is that we're getting progress and we're getting there. And then we have this kind of snow again, 15 centimetres, 20 centimetres … and we've got to go back and start again."

But Breen remained firm the money would be found within existing city coffers and from the federal government.

"it's gonna be no cuts to services and there'll be no increase in taxes as a result of the storm. We're going to be able to find the efficiencies one way or another," he said.

24-hour parking ban staying put

The 24-hour on-street parking ban isn't going anywhere, and will remain in effect for the rest of winter. That ban does not apply to downtown or the business district. 

The 24-hour parking ban, outside downtown, is in effect for the rest of winter, the City of St. John's said Wednesday. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

The City of St. John's says it's crucial so crews can keep clearing roads and sidewalks, without having to navigate around cars parked on the side of the road. 

If winter decides to show some mercy, and the weather improves, the city will reconsider lifting the parking ban, said Breen.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Mark Quinn and Stephanie Kinsella


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