CHAMPAIGN — With temperatures touching 81 on Wednesday afternoon, you might have forgotten that it's still technically winter.
Unusually warm temperatures — like this week's highs — and mild weather have been persistent for the past few months in Champaign-Urbana, and it's been so pervasive that it has even saved each of the cities tens of thousands of dollars.
Assuming there's no more snow, Champaign will finish the winter season more than $100,000 under its snow- and ice-removal budget. And it will have enough salt left over for next year to where city administrators plan on spending as much as $91,000 less than they normally would, according to administrative services manager Elizabeth Hannan.
Urbana is more than $36,000 under budget for the season, according to numbers provided by John Collins, operations manager for the Urbana public works department.
The numbers are all relative, though — it is a welcome break from last year's winter, when amid record snowfall totals and unfortunate timing of storms, Champaign's snow removal costs ran more than $350,000 over budget.
Last year, the city had to dip into a reserve fund set aside for unexpected costs.
In the big picture, a $191,000 savings is not going to make or break a budget that has seen millions' worth of cuts over the past several years — especially because it is only a one-time savings, said Finance Director Richard Schnuer. If it were guaranteed that every winter in Champaign would be this mild, that would be a different story.
"It's really one-time money, and I think the question would then be, as we look at the budget, is the fund balance at an ample level without that savings?" Schnuer said. "If it is, then we can use that savings for something else."
In similar situations in the past, Schnuer said, city officials have taken the savings and dedicated it to street maintenance. The decision will ultimately be up to the city council when it votes on the next budget this summer.
While Champaign managed to save more than $21,000 on salt, Urbana was more than $14,000 over budget. That does not mean the city won't save.
"I haven't actually used that much salt for the year, but I purchased that much," Collins said.
The city of Urbana will "more than likely" spend less on salt next year now that it has built up a good reserve, Collins said.
The money the city budgeted on snow removal will roll back into the general fund, which covers other operational costs. In Urbana, a mild winter might really just mean more road work.
"Since we've had a better year, the weather's been nice, we probably spent more money on concrete because we haven't totally given up that," Collins said. "Asphalt patching, things like that."
Cities' budgets, actual expenses for winter
ChampaignItem Budgeted Spent SavingsPersonnel $147,034$87,115$59,919Salt* $341,530$319,986$21,544Contractual snow removal $38,310$14,615$23,695Maintenance $8,527$12,330($3,803)Total $535,401$434,046$101,355 UrbanaItem Budgeted Spent SavingsPersonnel $70,000$30,000$40,000Salt* $79,800$94,000($14,200)Contractual snow removal $5,0000$5,000Maintenance $11,430$5,948$5,482Total $166,230$129,948$36,282
*The cities are required to purchase a minimum amount of salt after they accept bids, so much of what they bought this year will be leftover for next year. Officials in Champaign plan to spend as much as $91,000 less on salt next winter.
SOURCES: Cities of Champaign and Urbana