Snow removal costs exceed budget

by Chris Vetter

The high volume of snow this winter has caused both the University and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities to spend much more than they anticipated on snow removal.
Paul Tschida, the assistant vice president of safety and health management at the University, told the Senate Higher Education Committee Tuesday that the University could spend as much as a half million dollars more than anticipated for snow removal this winter.
The Twin Cities campus allots $285,000 per year for snow removal costs. The campus has already spent $460,000 this year, $175,000 more than expected. The money goes toward equipment, labor and maintenance.
Mike Wilhelmi, the Higher Education Committee administrator, said the committee might consider providing funding relief for the University and MnSCU to help them make it through the season.
“They have had to dip into other accounts to pay for snow removal,” Wilhelmi said. “They had no idea so much snow would fall.”
Wilhelmi said funding relief would probably come in the omnibus higher education bill later this year, and would most likely be a line-item on the budget.
Almost 55 inches of snow has fallen in the Twin Cities this winter, well above the average snowfall of about 50 inches for the entire season. Meteorologist Joe DiGiovanni of KMSP-TV said if snowfall in February, March and April equals its average of 20 inches, the season total would amount to about 75 inches.
The University has a snow dumping site on each bank of the Minneapolis campus, and another site for the St. Paul campus.
Tschida said campus parking lots and ramps, which usually generate about $12 million annually, will also have to pay about $220,000 more than planned in snow removal costs if the state doesn’t approve the aid.
The Twin Cities isn’t the only University campus that has spent more than anticipated on snow removal. The Duluth campus has expended $300,000 so far, which is $75,000 over its budget.
Both the Crookston and Morris campuses have been declared federal disaster areas and will receive money from the federal government to help make it through the winter. Wilhelmi said the education committee would try to cover all the remaining expenses the federal government does not cover for those campuses.
MnSCU associate vice chancellor Judy Borgen reported similar losses for the 54 campuses that make up the MnSCU system. She said those campuses have spent a total of $1.8 million for snow removal, doubling their budgeted amount. Borgen said snow on some western MnSCU campuses, notably Moorhead State, has caused roof damage to some buildings.