Ferguson voters reject property tax to fund police reform

Ferguson voters reject property tax to fund police reform

© Adrees Latif / Reuters

(Reuters) - Voters in Ferguson, Missouri, rejected a property tax increase that would have helped fund police department reforms mandated under an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department after a 2014 police shooting of a black teenager.

City officials said that without the funds they would have to look into cutting costs before the June 30 budget deadline, and may try to put the proposal, known as Proposition P, on the ballot again in August.

That proposal, which would have added 40 cents to every $100 of assessed value and raised $600,000 a year, did not meet the required two-thirds threshold to be enacted. It received 57 percent of the vote.

"There may be some reduction in services, but we do not believe there will be any major effects to the Consent Decree agreement, or our Community policing model," City Manager De'Carlon Seewood said in a statement, referring to the accord with the Justice Department.

Voters approved a new sales tax, which the city has said would generate $1.225 million in annual revenue. It needed a simple majority to pass and received 69 percent.

The fatal shooting of unarmed Michael Brown, 18, by a white Ferguson police officer created heightened tension between Ferguson's government and its largely black community.

A suburb of St. Louis, Ferguson saw protests and rioting after Brown was killed and again after a grand jury did not indict the officer.

Police killings of black men have fueled a nationwide debate over race relations, the use of excessive force by police, and police accountability.

A U.S. investigation, the results of which were released in 2015, found systemic racial bias by police in Ferguson.

In February, the Justice Department filed a civil rights lawsuit against Ferguson to enforce reforms that called for, among other things, bias-awareness training for officers and a system for police accountability.

(Reporting by Mark Weinraub; Editing by Alistair Bell and Fiona Ortiz)