Pray for sun: 2011 budget is betting on little snow

The Nutter administration is fervently hoping for a warmer winter in 2011, but unlike this year, it is slightly hedging that bet with a new $4 million "reserve for unanticipated expenditures."

Residents and even a few national media outlets such as CNN were surprised to learn this winter that Philadelphia does not budget for snow removal. Historically, the Streets Department budget contained a little extra padding, which could be used when storms struck. But that relatively meager surplus was wiped out during last year's budget cuts, said city Finance Director Rob Dubow.

$4 million is nowhere near enough to remove snow in a record-setting winter like this one, which has already cost the city $16 million it could ill afford to lose. But it is better than nothing.

Dubow said the city would never set aside $16 million, given how unusual such epic winters are in Philadelphia. And he noted that the new $4 million fund may well end up being tapped for different unanticipated expenses altogether.

"It could be snow, but there are a whole bunch of contingencies that we face, and so we wanted to have a little reserve," Dubow said.

The budget calls for the money to reside in the Finance Department. City Council would have to approve its transfer to another department to cover an unexpected contingency cost.

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