Toronto’s snow-clearing budget is ballooning to $80 million this year, in part because contract costs are rising and bigger storms are anticipated.

Last year, the city budgeted only $63 million but spent more than $85 million because of a near-record snowfall, said Gary Welsh, general manager of transportation.

“The public expectation is very high. We get limited complaints about main roads and expressways,” he said. “It’s the side streets — a lot of residents want snow cleared as soon as possible, almost to bare pavement.”

The city’s costs for contractors were lower last year because it was at the end of a five-year deal. This year, the city is starting a new seven-year contract.

Costs also increase when a lot of snow needs to be removed, and not just plowed, because of heavy storms and less melting. Officials are assessing whether plowing is needed across the city every time it snows, as snowfalls can be heavier in certain areas. Salters alone may do the job in some places.

“After amalgamation, it was all about equal service,” Welsh said. But by being more selective after a storm, “we can save a couple hundred thousand dollars.”

A bid by Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker to require all able homeowners in the city to shovel their sidewalks was defeated 4-1.

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