High Gas Prices Force Cities Into Tough Choices

(CBS)
St. Louis, like almost every town along our route, is struggling to absorb the higher fuel costs these days. The city budgeted $3 million for fuel this year, but is on track to exceed that by nearly $1 million.

On our way here we stopped in Louisville, Ky., where they're seeing a domino effect that starts with high gas prices and ends with lost jobs.

When we arrived in Louisville, we headed straight for the Breslin Park Pool.

Half the city's public pools will be padlocked this summer, leaving the little girls high and dry.



"I thought it couldn't be true until I came and actually saw it. And saw that it didn't have any water," said 7-year-old Lydia Kinloch.

And mayor Jerry Abramson said: "It's a really tough decision!"

It's one of many he's had to make, Abramson told us as we drove downtown.

For every penny gas prices go up, his city budget takes a $30,000 hit.

He's also cutting back bus service to save fuel.

"How many years have we been saying, 'public transportation, public transportation,' people said, 'nah, I'd rather have my car,'" he said. "Now they say, 'I'm ready to get out of my car! Whaddya got, mayor?' Well, you know, I don't even have enough money to run the routes that we have today."

"These buses are packed! Very packed," said passenger Donna Warren.

Mayor Abramson took our CBS News crew to the municipal garage, where non-essential city vehicles are being put in park.

"Not only have we parked some, we're downsizing them all," he said. "we used to buy Escapes, we buy a Focus. Notice they're all Ford products. We're a Ford community."

And that's another problem. Because sales of the gas-guzzling trucks Ford produces in Louisville were down 19 percent last month from the year before, unsold hundreds are gathering dust behind the plant, while the employees' lot in the front keeps getting emptier and emptier.

"In June or July, they're going to lose an entire shift. That's a lot of people gonna be put out of work, and if they're not working, how are they going to afford gasoline?" said heavy equipment operator Curtis Jaggers.

No workers means no business for Cathy Miller. Her bar across the street used to get 50 visitors a night. Now she's lucky to get 15.

So, she's really dependent on Ford to survive.

"Yes, we are; yes we are," she said. "If Ford would shut that plant, we'd probably have to shut our doors."

And when folks like Cathy or plants like Ford have to close down, that puts a dent in the city's sales tax and payroll tax revenue, which forces the mayor to make even more tough choices.

I asked Mayor Abramson if he knows other mayors who are dealing with the same vicious cycle from rising gas prices and he said: "every single one."
  • Nancy Cordes On Twitter»

    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.

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