04/28/2012 11:41 am ET Updated Apr 30, 2012

Las Cruces, New Mexico, Threatens To Shut Off Public Utilities Unless Residents Pay Traffic Fines

In one New Mexico town you won’t just be in hot water for not paying your traffic fines, you won’t have any water at all.

Traffic violators in Las Cruces, New Mexico owe the city $600,000 in unpaid fines for running red lights and faced with budget woes town officials are making some big threats to get violators to pay up: Settle your fines or be forced to live without water, sewage and gas utilities, ABC News reports. By law the town can’t rely on the courts to recover the traffic fines, but thanks to a loophole they can stop providing residents with utilities if they are in debt to the town.

Las Cruces is just one of many cities across the country facing budget woes. Since 2009, Las Cruces' budget has shrank by $3.6 million, Las Cruces Sun-News reports. State-level budgets also hit local schools hard, with 135 teachers laid off in 2010, according to Las Cruces Sun-News.

Threatening to shut off utilities as a way to get residents to settle fines may be a first, but other towns have cut some municipal utilities outright due to budget constraints. New Hampshire recently announced it would be turning off some 100 street lamps this summer after the state's department of transportation saw its budget cut in half, according to the Nashua Telegraph. Meanwhile, Detroit is currently debating a measure to privatize public utilities in order to save $250 million in lighting costs, the Detroit Free Press reports.

But some state and local governments have come up with more creative ways to save money in recent years. Texas public schools are now selling advertising space on buses and buildings in order to cope with a statewide $5.4 billion cut in education funding. Baltimore, meanwhile, has put several historic buildings up for sale to get its budget woes under control.

But perhaps most alarming, the police department in Smithfield, North Carolina said it would stop responding to some 911 calls because the town is short on gas money.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article wrongly stated local municipalities fund the Las Cruces public school system.

Check out some other unexpected budget cuts below:



Budget Cuts