It’s a bit out of character for this Board of Selectmen to advocate spending more on something, but their call for a boost in the snow removal budget is way overdue.
Actually, the question to be put to voters in November is not about a spending increase at all — just about putting truth into the town budget.
The annual $69,000 snow budget has long been one of the biggest pieces of fiction foisted on Westport taxpayers.
Each year, town budget crafters help keep the bottom line low by plugging in this amount, voters approve it, and by sometime in December (or anytime after the first good storm) the money is all gone.
Over the past five years, snow removal has actually cost anywhere from $128,000 to $379,000 for snow removal labor and supplies over the past five years. Last year, it scarcely snowed at all and the snow budget was still overspent on the order of 80 percent. Budgeting for snow is an inexact science but this budget is never even in the ballpark.
The upshot is that the town must return to voters and ask for more money .
It’s an odd sort of after-the-fact fiscal management — the sort usually reserved for emergencies. Except that the town sees this emergency coming every time, year after year. Voters have generally been agreeable but the chance exists that one year they won’t.
To be taken seriously, budgets need to be based on realistic expectations of expenses and revenues. That hasn’t been the case with snow removal for at least a decade.
Raising the snow budget won’t cost Westport a dime. It will merely in inject a dose of reality and honesty into this part of town finances.