Ferguson mayor asks company for help as reserves dwindle

AP News
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Posted: Sep 24, 2015 5:43 PM

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — The city of Ferguson has turned to a Fortune 500 company based in the St. Louis suburb in hopes of reversing its deteriorating financial situation.

Ferguson was in financial trouble even before the protests and looting touched off by the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, 18, by now-former police officer Darren Wilson last August. Its reserves were $25 million in 2013, a figure that's expected to decline to $4.8 million by June 2016. The city also has run a multimillion-dollar deficit over the past two years.

Mayor James Knowles III and former city manager John Shaw met last week to seek a possible solution with officials from Emerson, an international manufacturing and technology company, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1VaOJMj ) reported. Knowles said no specific "ask or offer" was made during the meeting, and he declined to elaborate on specifics.

"We have a budget deficit we have to resolve, and that was one topic of conversation," he said.

Emerson has paid more than $1.3 million in taxes to St. Louis County and has donated $4.4 million to fund scholarships and youth employment efforts for residents in north St. Louis County and Ferguson, the company said in a statement.

"We explained to Mayor Knowles when we met him that we would continue to support community events, education, and other needs in the Ferguson community but there is not much more Emerson can do at this time," the statement said.

Shaw was among a handful of city leaders who resigned in March after a U.S. Justice Department report said Ferguson used racist policing and court practices. Knowles downplayed Shaw's involvement in approaching Emerson, saying he's serving as an ambassador to help the mayor build his own relationship with the multibillion-dollar company.

"He has established contacts and relationships with people who don't treat him like the media does," Knowles said.

Knowles also noted that Ferguson will need to bring in new revenue, make budget cuts or implement a combination of the two.

"I think it's safe to say that the city is going to have to start looking at what it is spending its money on," Knowles told the newspaper this week. "And if we ever get into a situation where we need to decide what to spend our money on, the Farmer's Market or our police department, it's going to go to the police department."