By Katina Caraganis
TOWNSEND — Town Administrator Andy Sheehan is asking the town’s Highway Department to be more aware of deficit spending for snow and ice removal this year by putting an initial cap of $75,000 on what the department can spend beyond what’s budgeted.
State law allows cities and towns to deficit-spend only when it comes to snow and ice removal, Sheehan said, but he said being more aware of what is being spent is always a good practice.
“It’s not something we’ve historically done but it’s always helpful. Instead of not giving a limit, we’re saying we can spend this amount, but depending on the weather and the number of call-outs, if the Highway Department starts to approach that limit, we can have a conversation,” Sheehan said.
In a memo to selectmen, dated Nov. 29, Sheehan said establishing a cap on authorized deficit-spending does not mean the town can’t spend more on snow and ice removal if a large storm hit.
“A cap will foster better monitoring and budget control of snow and ice spending,” Sheehan said, while noting the cap should be $75,000.
“If winter conditions so dictate a further authorization beyond $75,000, it can be voted later in the season,” he wrote.
The town budgets $125,000 annually for snow and ice removal, and the $75,000 cap would be added on to of that budget amount. Sheehan said on average, the town spends approximately $225,000 total on snow and ice removal.
Sheehan said the initial cap is a mechanism for the town to keep a better handle on costs, rather than letting them get away.
Both selectmen and the Finance Committee approved the cap.