Residents of embattled Ferguson, Missouri on Tuesday got a chance to weigh in on a proposal created to help avert a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city, reports The Associated Press.
About 100 people packed into the small Ferguson City Hall chambers for the first public meeting on the issue. Some expressed worry that the mandates could lead the St. Louis suburb into financial ruin.
The plan, up for City Council approval as early as Feb. 9, was developed after the city came under intense federal scrutiny following the shooting death of Michael Brown in August 2014.
Darren Wilson, a White former Ferguson police officer, shot and killed unarmed Michael Brown, 18, in August 2014. The shooting touched off a litany of protests across the nation against police brutality in communities of color. Wilson was not indicted by a grand jury.
Residents who spoke at Tuesday’s hearing were about evenly split on whether the city should go along with the agreement, which includes overhauling police policies, training and practices. Cost concerns were a common refrain among opponents.
The cost of implementing the Justice Department-mandated changes would be significant — preliminary estimates are at least $500,000, Mayor James Knowles said. The city already faces a $2.8 million deficit in part to legal fees, lost sales tax revenue from businesses damaged in protests that followed Brown’s death, overtime costs for officers handling the protests, and lost revenue from municipal court changes already implemented.
Knowles said in an interview that the city has already made cuts to pay and benefits for all employees. Ferguson voters will consider two tax increases in April — one imposing an economic development sales tax, the other a property tax increase that would cost about $76 annually for a home worth $100,000. If voters turn down the tax increases, the city will have to make even deeper cuts, he said.
The news outlet notes the city is also seeking grants to help fund improvements for the police force.
Many residents who voiced opposition to the proposal were White. Supporters were split between Blacks and Whites, reports The AP.