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State spends almost $200,000 on vehicle tracking, then turns units off

CORRECTION: The headline has been updated on this story to show the state spent almost $200,000.

SANTA FE – The state General Services Department spent nearly $200,000 over the past three years to buy GPS units to track the use of its vehicle fleet.

But the state turned the devices off last month as part of a cash-saving move in response to recent budget cuts.

State officials hope to resume the tracking soon.

“The department will continue to take every possible step to save taxpayer dollars while making sure that state resources are used responsibly,” said Wyndham Kemsley, a spokesman for the General Services Department.

The GPS devices – about 1,300 in all – have been helpful, Kemsley said. The devices can monitor a vehicle’s location and engine performance.

In fact, they’ve played a role in the state’s recovery of three stolen vehicles and prevented blown engines in four other cases, he said.

The deactivation is only temporary, a spokesman said, but it has the potential to save about $400,000 a year.

It comes as New Mexico faces incredible budget pressure linked to a downturn in oil and gas prices – a critical source of state revenue.

Gov. Susana Martinez has called the Legislature back to Santa Fe for a special session that starts Wednesday. The agenda includes resolving an impasse over whether to raise taxes to help cover spending in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

But state agencies and others that receive state funding have already cut back. The General Services Department, for example, has already absorbed a 5 percent budget cut, Kemsley said.

In addition to suspending GPS monitoring, the department reduced its fleet by 50 vehicles to save about $220,000 a year, Kemsley said.

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