CONYERS — The Conyers City Council approved the fiscal year 2021 budget by a unanimous vote at their June 17 virtual meeting. The new budget of $19,466,101 is just under a million dollars more than the current year budget of $18.5 million.
In response to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Conyers is expecting an overall decrease in revenues, despite a 4% increase in property taxes due to increased property values. The city has indicated it does not intend to increase its millage rate; however, residents whose property increased in value will see a tax increase.
The budget eliminates raises for employees and freezes hiring except for certified Police Department personnel. The city also expects to need a $600,000 transfer from its fund balance — or reserves — in order to balance the new budget.
Hotel/motel tax collections, which are dedicated funds for tourism, are also down, and Chief Financial Officer Isabel Rogers advised the council that the hotel/motel special revenue budget of $1,033,586 will also need a $273,568 transfer from the fund balance.
Council member Gerald Hinesley made a motion to approve the new budget and the motion was seconded. Hinesley commented that this has been a really tough budget year.
“We still don’t know how COVID-19 is going to affect us down the road,” Hinesley said. “It is a tough time for us. We appreciate the hard work of the staff on the budget.”
The vote was called and was 5-0 in favor of approving the budget.
In conjunction with approving the budget, the council held the first reading, waived the second reading, and approved a new ordinance that restructures the pay and rank classification system for the Conyers Police Department.
Rogers said that while there are pay adjustments in the new ranking system, they are on hold as there are no pay increases in the new budget.
Dep. Chief Scott Freeman explained the system is a way to address recruitment and retention at the police department.
“Specifically, what it does is rewards officers who have stayed on the job,” Freeman said. “Because we don’t want to just reward tenure, we built our structure to focus in on a lot of the training, like crisis intervention, the continued use of de-escalation training within the department, and so those specific classes are built into the rank structure so that even though they may be here for two, four, or six years, in order for them to move to the next rank, they have to have those courses completed.
“So not only does it reward courses and training, but it retains those officers for that experience and for that advanced level of training,” he added. “A lot of agencies are adopting similar plans, but we are pushing ahead to be a leader in that arena so that we can keep the best officers here at the city of Conyers.”
A motion was made and seconded to approve the new pay and classification system. During discussion, Cleveland Stroud stressed the importance of training, especially now with the public’s attention turned toward law enforcement.
“In light of the recent things that have happened over the United States, we want to emphasis how important training is and that something that you train for may be just a ways away,” Stroud said. “We can see what happens when you don’t get the proper training or you don’t adjust to the times as they change over the years, so training is very essential, especially now.”
The vote was called and the motion approved by a 5-0 vote.