TUSKEGEE, AL (WSFA) - Over the years, Charles Thompson has seen Tuskegee go through ups and downs.
"Our community has always been just above water," says Thompson.
He's owned Charlie T's t-shirt store in downtown for more than 20 years.
He knows Tuskegee will only get out of debt if locals spend their money here.
"Once you have established a residence in a community, then you now have the duty and obligation to make sure you're doing everything possible to help that community grow and prosper."
Jaymee Stephens says she would shop here.
"We would like to see a lot more come to Tuskegee so we wouldn't have to drive all the way to Montgomery and Auburn."
But Mayor Omar Neal says it's not that easy.
The city of Tuskegee is essentially broke. It's millions of dollars in debt that it owes now--$2-million to the IRS for two years in unpaid payroll taxes and $700,000 to a local bank.
The city council has declared a financial state of emergency.
The Mayor blames the recession and a lack of retail sales in town.
The city's already doing what it can to get finances turned around by cutting back to 32-hour work weeks for all city employees except firefighters and policemen.
They're also not hiring any new employees.
But the long term solution? Neal says there's only one way to solve the problem.
"Retail in this community. It is important, in fact, imperative to shop in Tuskegee," he says.
Despite the tough financial times facing the city, residents and leaders alike believe it's only temporary and are hoping it won't be long before things start looking up.
"We're going to monetize our history. We're going to create an economy within our community," says Mayor Neal.
"I'm hoping this is going to be one of the last bumps in the road," says Thompson.
City leaders are looking at even more ways to cut costs in the city.
But while they do they're considering ideas to generate revenue through dog license fees, and residential and commercial rental fees.
The city is holding a town hall meeting Monday September, 21st to discuss the financial problem.