OTTAWA -- For the first time in "many, many years," the City of Ottawa does not expect to need a shovel to dig its winter operations budget out a deficit position.

Director of Roads and Parking Services Laila Gibbons told the Transportation Committee that the city is forecasting a slight surplus in the $78 million winter operations budget in 2020.

In 2019, there was a $21.3 million deficit in the winter operations budget. Staff blamed increased snow accumulation and increased freeze-thaw cycles for the deficit. In 2018, the City of Ottawa posted a $7.2 million deficit in its winter maintenance operations due to increased snow accumulation.

Council added $5.6 million to the 2020 winter operations budget, bringing the total to $78.3 million.  The 2019 budget was $70.8 million.

During the Transportation Committee's debate on the 2021 budget, Councillor Jeff Leiper asked city staff for an update on winter operations spending this year.

"I do understand that the snowfall was slightly below averages. I do believe our average snowfall is about 223 cm, I think we received around 205 last year. But we did see more freeze-thaw cycles. So, we are as close to an average winter than we have been for a long time," said Gibbons Wednesday morning.

"At this point in time, we are forecasting a slight surplus in our budget. Really it's going to depend on how Mother Nature treats us over the next month."

Gibbons cited the service delivery review and additional funds in the 2020 budget for winter operations for helping address the budget pressures.

"We've been able to be fiscally responsible through this past year. For the first time in many, many years, we are looking to see either be on budget or see a slight surplus by year's end."