11/01/2011 12:32 pm ET Updated Jan 01, 2012

Smithfield, North Carolina Police May Ignore '911' Calls If Not Provided More Gas Money

In one North Carolina town, some residents may not get an answer to their 911 calls because the police are running out of gas money.

In a town council meeting Tuesday night, Smithfield, North Carolina Police Chief Michael Scott will ask officials to let him use $30,000 meant for office supplies to buy gas for patrol cars, the Raleigh News and Observer reports. If he doesn't get the money, Smith said the police force may stop responding to some 911 calls and investigating misdemeanors because he's already cut patrols.

Smithfield isn't the only town looking for ways to cut costs to contend with budget woes. High unemployment and a struggling housing market have pushed more than half of U.S. cities to cut staff, boost fees or cancel infrastructure projects, according to the National League of Cities. The situation has gotten so dire that deep state and local budget cuts may be slowing U.S. economic growth, according to The Associated Press.

City officials in Allen Park, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, announced Tuesday that they would lay off more than 30 police officers, firefighters and city workers, the Detroit Free Press reports. In Santa Ana, California a budget analysis found that the city may need to take steps including closing some fire stations at night to close a projected $30 million budget gap, according to Voice of OC.

Some localities are looking for other creative ways to trim budgets. Nearly 300 school districts are moving to a four-day week, the Washington Post reports. In Grand Rapids, Flint and Lansing, Michigan city officials will use a $550,000 award from the state's governor to buy a machine to process income tax returns, which will cut down on the cities' manpower needs, according to the Grand Rapids NBC affiliate.

One county is taking what some might argue is a more extreme approach to deficit reduction. Officials in Camden County, Georgia floated hiring prison inmates as firefighters last month to curb costs.

In Smithfield, town council members say there's no way the police will be forced to stop performing necessary services, even in tight economic times.

"I think we need to uncover every rock and every stone to see other areas where we could save some money," Councilman Perry Harris told the News and Observer.