Nightly News   |  October 14, 2011

Tough budget cuts: Doing less with less

Tough economic times for city and state governments translate into budget cuts unforeseen just a few years ago. Beyond laying off teachers, firefighters, and other city workers, some communities are going to extremes. NBC’s Kerry Sanders has more.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Tough economic times for city and state governments are ushering in budget cuts in places no one would have expected just a few years back. Beyond laying off teachers, firefighters, and other city workers, some communities really are going to extremes. Our report tonight from NBC 's Kerry Sanders .

KERRY SANDERS reporting: It's a sign of the times , doing more with less, and in some cases doing less with less. In Wakonda and Irene , South Dakota , school is now four days a week, a cost-cutting move to save $50,000. Mr. LARRY JOHNKE (Irene-Wakonda, South Dakota School District Superintendent): We looked into the schools that were -- been doing four day weeks. We don't feel it's going to have an effect on the students' achievement at all.

SANDERS: In tiny Alto , Texas , population 1200 , the city furloughed its five police officers and now relies on the county's 25 sheriff deputies who already patrol 1,000 square miles.

Mr. FREDERICK SHAW (Alto, Texas Resident): I feel like the town is vulnerable because we have no law enforcement.

Unidentified Police Officer: I'm going to miss him.

SANDERS: In San Diego the city saved a quarter million dollars cutting its mounted patrol and auctioning the horses. In Pinellas County , Florida , commissioners voted this month to stop adding fluoride to the water supply. The immediate savings, $200,000. But the mother of 14-year-old Jenny Brown worries about no fluoride in the water.

Ms. RHONDA BROWN (Pinellas County Florida Resident): If they're going to take the fluoride out of the water, are they going to be sure that they have any dental plans or anything to help them with going to the dentist?

SANDERS: Across America local elected officials are recognizing that old Washington refrain, a million dollars here, a million dollars there, before you know it, we're talking real money. In Newark , New Jersey , city workers complained cuts almost reached absurd levels. City hall proposed to stop providing toilet paper in the restrooms. Employees would have to bring their own, but that idea was flushed. Kerry Sanders , NBC News, Pinellas County Florida.