By the end of last year, with Braintree having seen only a dusting of snow so far, the town had made just a mild dent in its snow and ice removal budget.
The last few weeks have wiped out those remaining funds. After the Blizzard of 2013 that dropped more than two feet of snow and last weekend's storm that brought another several inches, Braintree's $350,000 winter budget is depleted, Mayor Joseph Sullivan said.
"We have reserves, we will be adjusting the funding," Sullivan said.
For the last several years, Braintree has slowly increased the amount it allocates to snow and ice, seeking to reach the level it would cost to fund an average snow season.
Last year, with a $300,000 budget, the town barely spent money at all, mostly on seasonal preparation like bulk purchasing of sand and equipment repairs.
During the 2010-2011 season, Braintree went $1 million over budget when storm after storm slammed Massachusetts.
"It's unpredictable," Sullivan said. "You cannot put a specific number on snow."
The mayor said total costs for the last two storms are still being calculated. Last Sunday, the town hired outside contractors to plow and coat the streets with melting chemicals. And officials are again coordinating efforts ahead of a storm this weekend that could bring more snow to Braintree, though forecasts also predict rain for the South Shore.
Snow budgets are unique among municipal finances in that they are an area in which towns are allowed to regularly go beyond planned spending because of the uncertainty of weather. That, combined with a state law that says a town may not budget less for snow than it did the year before, means that base budgets are typically set lower than expenses.
Sullivan said he has received complaints about snow removal in the wake of the blizzard, especially workers placing snow on private property. But with such a large amount of snow and limited deposit areas – both the town and the MBTA are using the landfill off Ivory Streeet – it can be hard to avoid.
"In some instances, there is no place to put the snow except on private property," Sullivan said.
Also, the town has yet to fine anyone who has not shoveled their sidewalks, but the mayor said "that's always an option."
"We've stronly encouraged people to clear the sidewalk in front of their home," he said.