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Less snow helps City of Edmonton save $64M in operational costs

Edmonton back in black again thanks to less snow
WATCH ABOVE: The City of Edmonton saw a surplus in 2016 thanks in part to a lack of snow this winter. Sarah Kraus explains.

An Edmonton winter that saw significantly less snow helped the city spend about $64 million less on operations than it budgeted for in 2016.

Roughly 40 per cent of those savings was thanks to a warmer winter and less money spent on snow and ice removal on the roads.

Overall, average daily temperatures were about a degree and a half above seasonal, while the total yearly snowfall was about 67 per cent below average, according to the Environment Canada statistics.

READ MORE: The snow race is on: Vancouver’s snowfall total for this winter could soon surpass Edmonton’s 

The city was able to find an additional $36.3 million in savings, making up the remaining 60 per cent. That amount is 1.5 per cent of the overall 2016 operational budget, which is the same savings the city was able to find last year.

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“Mother Nature clearly gave us a helping hand this past year,” said Todd Burge, the city’s deputy manager and CFO. “However, the results overall show that we continue to manage our finances on residents’ behalf for long-term sustainability, flexibility and responsiveness to emerging needs.”

In November, the city estimated it could see a surplus of $28.4 million, nearly half of which would be saved from the snow and ice removal budget.

“While the city doesn’t plan for a surplus, it plans for a balanced position,” said Stacey Padbury, the deputy city treasurer. Padbury added the snow removal surplus this year is consistent with the past several years.

“For the City of Edmonton, it is essentially a savings that allows us to manage emergent financial items as they come to light.”

READ MORE: City of Edmonton anticipates $28.4M surplus for 2016 

A report to city council on Thursday detailed the full (unaudited) year-end results.

“The report recommends that $20 million of the operating surplus be used to carry forward 2016 operating budget, fund fire fleet replacement and to fund the Cornerstones Housing Program,” Padbury said. “The remaining balance will be transferred to the financial stabilization reserve for emergent financial issues in accordance with city policy.”

Highlights from that financial report include:

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  • City spent $8.3 million less than budgeted due to personal factors like unfilled vacancies
  • City spent $5.9 million less for consulting costs due to rescheduled projects
  • City spent $4.3 million less for contractors due to less demand and more work being done in-house

The $64-million surplus will be put in the Financial Stabilization Reserve. Funds can then be directed by council to several possible areas, including expenses “committed but not utilized” in 2016, fleet services vehicle replacement reserve or the Cornerstones II program for 2017.

With files from Margeaux Morin, Global News