(NECN: Josh Brogadir, Lawrence, Mass.) - It's been a tough winter, with storm after storm hitting New England, and it has stretched communities' clean up budgets thin.
"This is what I least like about it right now. It makes it difficult," said Tom Kelly.
And you can't blame the Methuen city auditor from disliking this part of his job, since who wants to be $825,000 in the red already with March's unpredictable lion potentially about to roar in just a few days?
"We start the budget out in July and you start adopting it and everyone's all happy and everything's been balanced. But the problem is, and I know it, the big elephant in the room is what are snow and ice going to be like this year," Kelly said.
All across New England, July is but a forgotten memory buried beneath the snow and ice.
Methuen has had 18 winter storm events, many of them legitimate nor'easters to salt, sand and plow, and the city could see event number 19 on Wednesday.
Down the road in Lawrence, the city is also more than $1 million over the snow budget.
However, Lawrence Department of Public Works Director John Isensee says it's intentional.
"Let's say you budget a half million dollars, $500,000. You feel it's a good, prudent place to put it, you put it in your budget. The following year and subsequent years there after, you're going to have to continue that $500,000 appropriation. You're not going to be able to lower that," Isensee said.
And in a mild year like 2012, that could mean a surplus, which is not necessarily a good thing when this is the only budget item that is allowed to go over, following the Massachusetts General Laws.
So instead, Isensee said, "They'll scrape the nickels and dimes out of everybody's budget corners, mine included. It could be police, fire, anyone who has extra money at the end of the year, they'll cobble together to try to pay down that debt."
In Methuen, that might mean a generator at City Hall isn't replaced until the next fiscal year, for example.
What it won't mean in either city is the streets won't be plowed, but you aren't the only one sick of cleaning up after what winter leaves behind.
"Well, I haven't had a vacation in the winter time for 35 years, so I look forward to summer," Isensee said.
"And the other problem is, as the snow starts to melt the road, the roads start deteriorating because of the potholes. That's the other phase to all of this. We can say right now if we didn't have another drop of snow that the deficit is going to compound itself," Kelly added.
The other option for municipalities is to defer those payments for snow removal until the next fiscal year.
But then taxes go up and you know what taxpayers have to say about that.