Towns Get Creative To Save Cash

These are tough times for state and local governments. Many are facing big budget gaps, none more than California, which leads the way with $21 billion in red ink.

All over America, officials are looking for ways to save. And, as CBS News correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports, they've come up with some bright ideas.

How much would you pay for all the quarters in all the parking meters in all of Chicago, for the next 75 years?

One company paid close to $1.2 billion to the cash-strapped city to take over the meters. Good deal for Chicago, which had a $469 million deficit for just this year, but a bad deal for parkers - rates will double in some areas.

"I ended up putting seven quarters in the meter," said one Chicagoan, Dan Skinner.

Another, Mayer Freed, chimed in: "We don't have to like it. But maybe that's all they have."

Cities are getting creative - looking to raise or save as much as they can, wherever they can.

The Palm Bay, Fla., police weren't really thinking about money when they began a pilot program to use paragliders for search and rescue, but they sure are cheaper than helicopters.

"It costs like $2.50 an hour to have these in the air," said Lt. Joe Eakins of the Palm Bay Police.

Hempstead, N.Y., town supervisor Kate Murray had an even more unusual idea - Nigerian Dwarf goats. They're just babies now, but they'll soon be grazing and grooming a city park. It's a solution that's both cheaper and more environmentally friendly than human groundskeepers wielding hedge-trimmers.

As Murray put it, "No housing costs and as employees, you don't have to give them health benefits."

That's one reason the town supervisor says she's bullish on these goats. It's all in how you look at things. A pile of stolen and abandoned bikes in Ewing Township, N.J, may look like junk, but, "I see money. I do," says Mayor Jack Ball.

He auctioned them off at GovDeals.com, a sort of EBay for towns with a surplus of stuff and a deficit of dough. He got $1,700 for them - that's found money for a struggling town.

The last thing mayors want to do is raise taxes in tough times. So if trash can be turned into treasure or quarters into billions even a goat knows it's worth looking into.

  • Richard Schlesinger

    Correspondent, "48 Hours," "CBS Evening News"