Toronto city councillors are getting some big-time help from an unlikely source in their attempts to save money in the 2012 budget — Mother Nature.
The unbelievably mild winter so far means the city is saving millions of dollars on winter maintenance.
The lack of snow means the city is spending less money on overtime, ploughing and salting.
Myles Currie, the director of transportation services for the city, says so far this winter the city has saved about $3 million.
Holding the salt saves money
Most of the savings comes from not having to buy salt.
"It's about $85 a tonne. Typically in a normal winter season, we could use 120,000 to 130,000 tonnes of salt. So we're well below that projection," he said.
City crews have used only about a third of the salt they did during the same period last winter.
"Between November and December of 2010 we used 39,000 tonnes [of salt]," said Currie.
"For the same time period in 2011, it was 13,000 tonnes of salt use. So really so far this winter we've had a minimal salting operations and no ploughing operations whatsoever."
Historically, Toronto averages about 115 centimetres of snow. Since November, Toronto has had less than 10 centimetres.
Currie says any unspent money goes into a winter reserve fund, which the city dips into it anytime Toronto has a winter with record snow.
But he also warns that residents shouldn't be lulled into a false sense of security.
"Mother Nature could throw us a curve ball on the weekend and things could change completely," he said.