Remember how a lot of New Jersey towns ran out of road salt last winter because the Garden State kept getting hit by snowstorms? Road salt companies now say the higher-than-normal demand has cut supplies this year, and that is forcing prices higher.

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Some municipalities that buy salt every year are reporting prices are 10 to 15 percent higher, while others with multiyear contracts report they're now paying close to 30 percent more for supplies than they did two or three years ago.

"If towns have to pay more for road salt, that means you're going to have to make some cuts in other areas of the budget," said Bill Dressel, executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities.

Dressel said cutting back on road salt is not an option.

"We deal with public safety issues here, not only for the residents, not only for the citizens and the schoolchildren, but the businesses and commerce," he said. "Our roads are critical to our general well-being."

This kind of big increase is going to be very difficult for many local officials to deal with, according to Dressel.

"This is just another cost increase that is coming when we're being told by Trenton we have to contain cost increases," he said. "It's just an example of another cost increase that comes in above and beyond the arbitrary 2 percent that local officials have absolutely no control over, and it means hard choices have to be made. You know, what is there to cut? Do you cut senior citizen programs, do you cut recreation programs?"

He said being a public official these days isn't easy with a mindset of having to be able to make cuts.

"We all know local officials up and down the state have been making the tough cuts and they've been dealing with the fact that state aid has been cut back, while utility, energy and insurance costs have all continued to rise," Dressel said. "You're looking at local officials as magicians; they've got to pull the rabbit out of the hat every time and try to provide quality services with a reduced amount of revenues. It just keeps getting more and more difficult."