Without snow and budgets, we reporters wouldn’t have anything to write all winter.
Those two topics have to be the two biggest (and sometimes the worst) topics that are covered all winter.
Some places the budget season starts as early as November and runs through May. Lucky for me, it starts in January and runs through May. Even into June if you consider that the Board of Education adopts its budget in June and the Board of Finance sets the tax rate that month. That’s five or six months worth of budget stories.
It seems like during the height of it, I’m covering a school board meeting every Monday and sometimes even more often. There are Board of Finance meetings it seems every week. And that doesn’t mention the stories in between about how the budget is proceeding behind the scenes.
Budgets are a necessary evil, but I don’t mind the stories nearly as much as snow.
I don’t mind looking at snow, but I hate driving in it. I hate having to walk in it for any distance. Worse of all, I hate having to write about it.
Every time a storm pops up, though, I’m obliged to write one. I don’t know who hates it more, the public works director or me.
I walk in the door when a storm is in the forecast and I get told — in jest — to go away or use last year’s story. I don’t blame him. I don’t like asking the obvious questions. Are you ready for the storm? Duh. Guys on call? Duh again. I feel like a dingbat having to ask the obvious questions to which I already know the answers.
Sometimes the real beauty during the winter is when snow crosses with the budget.
If there’s a lot of snow during the winter, there is going to be a shortfall in the budget for clean-up costs. If it’s a light winter, there’s going to be a surplus in the account. During the years I’ve been a reporter in Westport, it’s been one or the other. The one year there was a surplus, the money was transferred to cover a shortfall in overtime at the fire department. Every other year there has been a shortfall because of heavy amounts of snow.
My favorite snow budget discussion happened during a hearing with the finance board. The public works director brought a photo of an old roll pulled by horses that was once used to pack down the snow. The note said the budget had gotten so bad they had converted to the old method to save money.
I think the one story I haven’t written about the snow is one I’ve always wanted to write. Why do people always crowd the grocery stores and buy milk, bread and eggs? One of these days I’ll stand outside the grocery store before a storm and ask.