Less snow in Anchorage is bad for skiing, but a boon for the city's maintenance budget.
Officials say the city saved roughly $1 million on snow removal and related public works services in 2014.
The large surplus has materialized in spite of budget cuts to the city's Public Works department last year, said the department's head, Ron Thompson. In 2013, the surplus was even larger, at about $1.7 million, Thompson said.
A warmer winter means the department can more easily chip away at a backlog of maintenance issues that aren't top priorities but still need attention, Thompson said. These days, city maintenance workers are fixing potholes, patching roadways and repairing guardrails instead of hauling snow.
Milder temperatures mean lower utility bills for city facilities, and lower fuel costs for heavy equipment. There's also less contractor spending and fewer overtime costs.
"Anytime you have 4 to 6 inches of snow...we're pretty much eating a couple hundred thousand dollars in overtime for each storm," Thompson said.
Anchorage service areas and homeowners' associations also benefit budget-wise from a lessened need for snow removal.
The city is experiencing its second least-snowy winter since the National Weather Service started keeping records at Anchorage International Airport in 1953, said Joe Wegman, a meteorologist with the Anchorage office.
Just 20.3 inches of snow has fallen since Oct. 1, about a third of the amount considered normal, Wegman said. This is also the warmest winter in 11 years, with an average temperature of 27.6 degrees as of Thursday.