Ice and Snow Removal Costs City Nearly $2M Per Inch

Ice and Snow Removal Costs City Nearly $2M Per Inch

City Comptroller Scott Stringer's analysis revealed that the cost of ice and snow removal in the Big Apple averages $1.8 million per inch. Photo Courtesy of DSNY

City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s analysis revealed that the cost of ice and snow removal in the Big Apple averages $1.8 million per inch.
Photo Courtesy of DSNY

Everything is more expensive in New York City.

Since the winter of 2003, the cost of clearing Big Apple streets of snow and ice has averaged $1.8 million per inch, according to a new analysis released last week by city Comptroller Scott Stringer.
However, Stringer pointed out that that amount has varied considerably year-to-year, and that light snow and heavy snow seasons are significantly more expensive than average snow seasons on a cost-per-inch basis.

The city budgets annually for snow removal based on the average amount spent over the previous five years. But the amount the city spends varies according to snowfall amounts during the winter season. Annual costs for ice and snow removal range from a low of $25.4 million to a high of $130.7 million, and averaged $55.3 million from Fiscal Year 2003 to Fiscal Year 2014. For the same period, annual snowfall totals averaged 35.9 inches per year, with a high of 61.5 inches in FY11 and a low of 6.8 inches in FY12.   Stringer’s office analyzed ice and snow removal using two major components: Personal Services, such as employee overtime and hourly wages for temporary workers; and Other Than Personal Services, such as payments to snow-removal contractors, the cost of materials, equipment, fuel, maintenance and training.

While total costs vary year by year, the per-inch cost of snow and ice removal followed a declining cost curve and averaged $1.8 million from FY03 to FY14. However, Stringer said, the costs per inch of snow removal are significantly higher in light snow years than in heavier ones. The lowest cost-per-inch was $740,000 in FY03 when the city experienced a snowfall amount of 55 inches. The highest observed cost was $4.4 million per inch in FY12, when only 6.8 inches fell.

Higher costs for winters with little snowfall are driven mainly by the fact that, no matter how much snow falls, the city must take certain precautions to be ready for any eventuality, Stringer noted. The sweet spot of optimal per inch costs lands at approximately 43 inches. But if snowfall exceeds the band within 24 and 56 inches per season, history shows that costs begin to rise again on a per-inch basis due to the sheer scale of the task at hand.

“The men and women who keep our streets clean deserve all the credit in the world for keeping us safe.  Winter weather can be unpredictable, but with this analysis we can reasonably predict what the cost of keeping our streets free of snow and ice will be for any given snowfall amount. The more we know about our costs, the better prepared we can be for our budgeting,” Stringer said.

By Forum Staff


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