WASHINGTON TIMES — Ferguson City Council members are set to vote Tuesday on an agreement with the Justice Department to overhaul the police and court systems — a plan that threatens to absorb one-fourth of the Missouri city’s budget and to overwhelm even its ability to raise taxes.
The latest figures provided by city officials put the costs associated with the Justice Department’s consent decree as high as $3.7 million in the first year for a city with an operating budget of $14.5 million and a budget deficit of $2.8 million this fiscal year.
In addition, the consent decree cripples what had been a principal source of revenue and a major cause of racial tension — such as fines for minor traffic offenses — while the city’s notoriety and 2014 riots have damaged its ability to attract a taxable base that could generate money.
“We’re going to have to come up with a plan for how we can afford those costs. Whether that’s through taxes or whether that’s through some sort of service cuts, there will have to be a plan that we can adopt in order to make this consent decree feasible,” Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III told reporters at a meeting Feb. 2. “There’s no use in signing a consent decree that you can’t live up to.”