Ferguson voters reject property tax to fund Justice Department deal

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 06, 2016 12:03 PM

By Mark Weinraub

(Reuters) - Voters in Ferguson, Missouri, rejected a property tax increase that would have helped fund changes to its police department required by the U.S. Justice Department after the city erupted in violence following the shooting of a black teenager in 2014.

A new sales tax did pass, but the city will still be left with a financial shortfall as the property tax proposal did not meet the required two-thirds threshold to be enacted. The city may try to put the proposal on the ballot again in August.

"There is still a deficit," Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said on Wednesday, the day after the vote. "There is still a gap."

The fatal shooting of unarmed Michael Brown, 18, by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, exposed friction between the city government and the largely black community. Ferguson erupted into violent protests after a grand jury chose not to indict the officer.

A U.S. investigation released in 2015 found systemic racial bias by police targeted blacks and created a "toxic environment" in Ferguson.

A new city budget, including recommendations made by the Justice Department, must be signed by June 30. The Justice Department sued the city earlier this to force compliance with the agreement, which requires Ferguson's police department to give officers bias-awareness training and implement an accountability system.

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The property tax hike proposal, of an additional 40 cents for every $100 of assessed value, was expected to raise $600,000. It received 57 percent of the vote while the sales tax, which needed only a simple majority, received 69 percent.

(Reporting by Mark Weinraub; Editing by Alistair Bell)