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City's $14M budget to include new police cadet program
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The Conyers City Council held its first hearing on the city's proposed $14 million Fiscal Year 2015 budget on May 20. Among the significant new budget items is a police cadet program requested by Conyers Chief Gene Wilson to boost police recruiting and diversity.

City Chief Financial Officer Isabel Rogers estimated general fund revenues and expenditures balancing out at $14,143,988 - a number that surely would change in practice. The budget requires a second council hearing before it can be approved in time for the start of the fiscal year on July 1.

Wilson proposed the police cadet program at the city's annual Winter Retreat in January. It would offer behind-the-scenes police jobs to grads of the Explorers, a police career program for young adults. The salaried work would give the cadets a leg up on being hired by the department if they complete police academy training. And the career pipeline could encourage them to stay at the Conyers department due to local ties, even if another department might offer a bit more money.

Wilson has previously said that recruiting and retaining quality officers is very difficult these days. He also wants to diversify CPD ranks, which are more than 80 percent white in a minority-majority city. Most of the current Explorers are minority youths, Wilson says, and are Rockdale residents with natural community-policing interests.

"They grew up here," Wilson told the News after the council meeting. "They went to school here. Their parents are here. Their roots are here."

The proposed pilot program would start with two cadet positions. Their proposed salary would be roughly 10 percent less than the rookie officer salary-around $30,000-and would come with benefits.

Some other expenditures Rogers noted are a 12.7 percent increase in city health insurance premiums, and the adoption of the "rule of 85" system to allow older employees who transfer to city jobs to retire with a full pension. Rogers said the insurance premium increase was negotiated down from more than 30 percent, and noted that in recent years increases have been very low. Councilmen praised her efforts at keeping the insurance costs down.

A full copy of the proposed budget is available for view at Conyers City Hall, 1184 Scott St.

The council also approved an updated version of the current city budget, which has a relatively small surplus. Rogers reported general fund revenues as $13,981,537 and general fund expenditures as $13,608,162.

This is also the time of year that the city usually gets approval to borrow money to cover expenses until tax-collection time. This year, Rogers instead sought and received a thumbs-up for a $1.5 million revolving line of credit from United Community Bank of Conyers at 2.75 percent interest. That will allow the city to borrow the exact amount it actually needs rather than a lump sum, she said. Councilman John Fountain, a board member at the bank, recused himself from the vote and left the room during the discussion.

In other council business:

-The council approved an agreement where the city will reimburse the county up to $175,000 for an upcoming resurfacing of part of Sigman Road.

-The county Board of Elections will once again run the city's municipal election, slated for Nov. 3 this year. The council approved a deal to reimburse the county $9,805 for the work. If a runoff election is required, that cost will rise.

-Rick Ramsey, a longtime local State Farm insurance agent, was appointed to the Conyers Rockdale Economic Development Council board. He will serve out the term of Roland Vaughn, who is resigned because he is moving out of the area, CREDC board members previously said.

-The city renewed for 2016 the $1.50 per month fee charged to all landline phones and wireless connections in Conyers to fund Enhanced 911 service, which helps locate people who call 911 in an emergency.

-Mayor Randy Mills and Councilman Gerald Hinesley read proclamations celebrating Law Enforcement Appreciation Week and National Public Works Week.

-Following the meeting, the council entered an executive session to discuss "potential litigation and property acquisition," according to City Manager Tony Lucas.