Neighbors appeal to city for help

CONYERS — In the face of declining revenues as a result of COVID-19, the Conyers City Council is looking at a tight fiscal year 2021 budget that is predicated on eliminating raises for employees and freezing all hiring except for certified Police Department personnel. The city will also eliminate all training and travel, except for what is mandatory.

In addition, the city anticipates drawing $600,000 from its fund balance — or reserves — in order to balance the fiscal year 2021 budget of $19,466,101.

Chief Financial Officer Isabel Rogers presented the new budget to council members via teleconference meeting Wednesday night. Rogers said an expected 4% increase in property taxes due to an increase in assessed values won’t be enough to offset revenue declines in other areas and increases in some expenses. She said most of the financial impact is directly related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Rogers said the city does not expect to increase its millage rate. However, residents whose property increased in value will see a tax increase.

She said she is preparing for a “very fluid” budget year as city officials keep a watchful eye on revenues that have been impacted by COVID-19. Rogers said if revenues improve, she recommends replenishing the city’s fund balance as a priority.

The city’s hiring freeze will mean that employees who leave will not be replaced unless they filled a critical role. The final decision on refilling vacant positions will come down to City Manager Tony Lucas.

“At this time, we plan on being extremely conservative,” he told the council.

Mayor Vince Evans said the city will make no sacrifices in the Police Department.

“We will make sure it is completely funded,” he said.

Other departments may feel the strain of having fewer people, however.

“The thing about our budget and our situation is we don’t have a lot of fluff in our budgets,” said Evans. “It’s not like we can lose a person here or there and still get the job done. … We’re going to have a tough year taking care of what we need to take care of because we have less people.”

According to the proposed budget presented Wednesday night, tax collections, which make up 77% of the general fund budget, are expected to increase by $331,000. However, other revenues are expected to decrease as follows:

• Licenses and permits: -$495,000

• Intergovernmental revenues: -$147,600

• Sanitation fees (due to decreased collections by Pratt Industries): -$82,000

• Georgia International Horse Park Revenues: -$365,964

• Hotel/motel tax: -$467,448

In addition, the city anticipates expense increases in health insurance and maintenance and repairs, due in part to the new, expanded City Hall.

A public hearing on the budget will be held June 3 at 7 p.m. in council chambers.

A detailed copy of the budget is available at the Police Department front lobby window and at the city clerk’s office at City Hall, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

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I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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