SUDBURY -- After an extended period in which Greater Sudbury's roughly $22 million snow removal budget ran millions in the red, the relatively dry winter of 2020-2021 has helped the city run a surplus.

The 2020 budget posted about a $466,000 surplus, and so far in 2021, the budget is $1.5 million under budget.

Traditionally, surpluses from one winter season are allowed to accumulate to fund years when severe weather causes a deficit.

In recent years, however, a combination of heavy snow and frequent freezing rain cycles have led to consecutive deficits.

A surplus in 2012 of $700,000 gave way to a $3 million deficit in 2013, a result of heavy snowfall and an extremely cold December.

It was a sign of things to come. Even in 2015, when snowfall wasn't a problem, a warm, wet fall combined with an extremely cold winter led to pipes freezing in more than 1,500 homes – and more red ink.

The city received 66 per cent more snow than usual in 2016, and winter control ended up $2.3 million over budget, in 2017 it was $850,000 over, and in 2018 it was $2.4 million.

The string of shortfalls peaked in 2019 when the snow removal budget hit a $6.1 million deficit.

But after a tough start to 2020, the number of major weather events – snowstorms, freezing rain – declined. November saw just 15.6 cm of snow, 60 per cent less than normal. December was also lower, but January of this year was particularly kind to the budget. Greater Sudbury received 73 per cent less snow than normal – 21.6 cm, compared to the 10-year average of 79.9 cm. There were no major snowstorms or freezing rain days last month.

City council will receive the report at the operations committee meeting March 1.