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Harsh winter leaves cracks in Wauwatosa's budget

June 3, 2014

The city of Wauwatosa spent more than $1 million last winter battling the harsh weather, creating a budget hole that was saved by unexpected revenue from building permits, according to numbers provided by Finance Director John Ruggini.

The largest expenses were incurred by the water utility, which saw more water main breaks in the first two months of the year — 81 — than it typically deals with in a full year, Water Superintendent James Wojcehowicz said.

Wojcehowicz found the water utility spent about $895,000 on work related to the winter weather between Jan. 1 and March 31. More than a quarter of that was spent on contracted work and materials, which Wojcehowicz said would only cost about $30,000 in a more normal year.

Wojcehowicz submitted these numbers to Milwaukee County as part of the county's application to be designated as a disaster zone to receive financial relief for the winter expenses.

In another winter-related shortfall, the city's streets division was charged about $275,000 for fuel and maintenance on city vehicles, which includes outfitting and sharpening plows. Last year, this cost was about $185,000.

Additionally, the streets division already has exceeded its $60,000 overtime budget, which is meant to last the full year.

Despite the unforeseen costs, Ruggini is forecasting a budget surplus of about $480,000 based on the first quarter, January through March. This is largely a result of revenue from building permits on projects at Mayfair Mall, Children's Hospital and other locations. The timing of such permits is difficult to predict, and therefore that revenue often is not considered during budget preparation.

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