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Lewisboro Daily Voice serves Lewisboro, NY

Mild Winter Spelling Fiscal Relief for Highway Dept.

LEWISBORO, N.Y. – Highway Superintendent Peter Ripperger looked out the window of his office and smiled. It’s another sunny January day. It’s cold, but there are no significant snowfalls forecasted for the immediate future. For the cash-strapped town of Lewisboro, that’s a good thing.

“This is a very good thing for all the taxpayers,” Ripperger said. “It’s a win/win situation if it stays this way. This year Mother Nature has been kind to us, but we still have two more months to go.”

Over the past few months, as town officials attempted to balance the budget for 2012 and re-establish a fund balance without raising taxes, some significant cutting was done and the highway department was not immune to the fiscal scalpel. Ripperger’s salt budget was cut by $5,000, from $195,000 to $190,000. But it was his snow overtime budget that really took a hit. It was slashed by from $180,000 to $120,000 – a reduction of about 33 percent.

To make matters worse, after last year’s particularly harsh winter, there was nothing left in the town coffers that Ripperger and his crew could use to fall back on.

“We used it all last year and then some,” he said. “In fact, guys took some comp time in order to help us out.”

That’s why Ripperger is happy the winter of 2012 has gotten off on the right foot. The department hasn’t had to get out its plows since the freak snow storm back in October and has only had to dip into its salt supply and overtime budget once.

“We had to reach into the kitty a bit on Monday and had to pay double time for a holiday after the freezing rain the night before,” he said, referring to Martin Luther King Jr. Day. “The school buses have to get out. But, other than that, so far so good. We are still purchasing salt because we were out. They were here delivering some this morning. We had enough for two or three storms in the salt dome, but that’s not enough.”

Ripperger said the lack of snow also helps save wear and tear on the department's plow fleet, which he considers a blessing since there’s not a lot of money in the budget for upkeep.

“The equipment gets beat up and we have a lot of old equipment and don’t have a lot of maintenance and repair money,” he said. “Last year we had $115,000 in the budget, but it was cut to $50,000 for 2012. We’ll be out of it by May and then the town board will have to make a decision. I don’t know what we’ll do, but I’m sure we’ll figure it out.”

In the meantime, Ripperger is just grateful that Old Man Winter seems to taking some time off.

“Mild winters – I will take every one that we can get,” he said.

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