CITIES "DIG' INSURANCE FOR SNOW REMOVAL

CITIES "DIG' INSURANCE FOR SNOW REMOVAL

The logic of bureaucracy forces city officials to think about snow in the middle of summer.

Heavy snowfalls can freeze city budgets.That's where insurance comes in.

On July 1, the first day of the new fiscal year and the day that year's budget takes effect, municipal managers start planning the next year's budget, including how much to set aside for snow removal.

After a spate of mild winters, the winter of 1993-94 proved that it's not prudent to take Mother Nature for granted. That winter brought nearly 3.5 feet of snow in New York (where the average is 26 inches), and more than 7 feet in Boston (average, 42 inches).

Municipal governments with no extra money turned to taxpayers.

"My hometown of Huntington needed to borrow $1 million for snow removal (that winter), and I am paying for that. I don't want to do it anymore," said Richard Kushner, director of program development for Customized Worldwide Weather Insurance Agency Inc., Great Neck, N.Y.

Worldwide has offered snow removal insurance since 1988. But it was only after the winter of 1993-94 that its policies became popular. New clients ranged from a Virginia nursing home to the city of Lynn, Mass.

The best way to live with snow, municipal governments learned, is to buy snow insurance.

Worldwide's coverage, based on the number of storms or inches of snow expected, is offered in the United States through Star Insurance Co. and Savers Property & Casualty Insurance Co., Southfield, Mich., and reinsured through commercial insurers in London, said Mr. Kushner.

It is also offered around the world through Worldwide's offices in Australia.

Snow insurance isn't cheap. Deductibles are as high as 25 percent of the limits. For towns buying a $2 million policy, that means swallowing $500,000.

But with the coverage, Mr. Kushner said, "we tell them their snow budget is $500,000, and that allows them to accurately set their budgets."