SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) _ The cream puff winter of 1994-95 has left Northeastern communities with an unexpected bounty _ money saved on snow removal.

The surplus is being lapped up quickly or stashed for, errrhh, a rainy day.

In Illinois, the Transportation Department needed only about two-thirds as much road salt as last year. The costs of overtime, material and equipment dropped from $43 million to $26 million.

``It's wonderful serendipity,'' spokeswoman Martha Schiebel said. ``It certainly helped the department keep its highway construction program up.''

In Worcester, only 25 inches of snow fell, compared with a yearly average of 67 inches. The city reached spring with a $240,000 surplus. The previous winter, with 100 inches of snow, Worcester ran a $2.1 million deficit in road clearing.

Andy Murch, Worcester's deputy commissioner of public works, hopes to use the surplus to repair and build salt sheds.

About 60 miles west in Springfield, Jack Dowd, deputy director of public works, wants to use his department's $350,000 surplus for garbage disposal, landfill and incineration fees.

Boston ended winter with its biggest winter road maintenance surplus in Joseph F. Casazza's 27 years as head of public works. The city needed just $1.8 million of its $3.2 million budget, leaving $1.4 million to return for other needs around the city. Boston spent about $8 million the winter before.

Verne Chepanonis, an aide to Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Mayor Lee A. Namey, said much of the town's savings will go to repairs on roads damaged by the previous winter.

``This year is a recovery year,'' she said.

In Utica, N.Y., a $200,000 surplus will be returned to city coffers for other operations. In Hartford, Conn., $275,000 in savings will help cover deficits in other city operations.

Some Connecticut communities had bet on bad weather and bought up to $25,000 in snow insurance to cover unexpected costs.

``It's just like when you buy a snowblower,'' said the crestfallen mayor of East Hartford, Conn., Robert DeCrescenzo. ``It doesn't snow.''