By Cyndi Sellers
The Cameron Parish School Board on Monday opted to leave its millage rates unchanged for the coming year. The Board’s proposed budget for the 2020-21 year projects a $7.9 million deficit, so even with an increase in property taxes due to reassessment, members felt they need the full amount. The School Board levies four property taxes totaling 34.3 mills.
Cameron Parish Assessor-elect Darrell Williams said reassessment at first looked to hit residential owners hard, but additional information made it “not so bad.” He said the addition of Cameron LNG and the second year of Cheniere LNG assessments on their original import facilities will add $4.7 million to the School Board’s budget.
A long-awaited FEMA payment of over $1 million was scheduled to be received this week, which will help lower the budget, but state MFP payments may be reduced. An extra $50,000 was spent on equipment to cope with COVID-19.
In voting for the unchanged levy, Joe Delcambre said, “It is an uncertain time. We don’t know what is coming this year.”
Superintendent Charley Lemons reported that Cheniere LNG and Cameron LNG had donated a total of $35,000 toward school supplies and fees for Cameron Parish students. It won’t cover all expenses, but should greatly reduce the amount parents have to pay, he said.
Another help for parents is a grant which has covered the cost of the teacher and aide for the Early Childhood program, eliminating the need for tuition.
The Board voted to change the administrative makeup at Grand Lake to reflect an elementary principal and assistant principal and a high school principal and assistant principal. The change is to titles only, no extra staff is being hired. It will add $6000 to the budget. Lemons said this arrangement has been needed at the school, and with one administrator leaving it is a good time to make the change.
The Board entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Cameron Parish Coroner Dr. Kevin Dupke for his service as unpaid medical advisor to the Board. Lemons said several school districts were hiring medical advisors at high rates, and he is glad to have Dr. Dupke agree to serve pro bono.
Dr. Dupke began by sharing the following advice about COVID-19: “It is deadly, it is serious. You are making great headway in dealing with this thing, but two to four weeks into school we will see a spike in schools, Grand Lake first because of its size.”
“What to do about it? The best thing for the community, in a medical sense, is don’t open schools. They are the biggest vector for spread. This would reduce mortality by 40 percent. Closing afterward will only reduce mortality by 1-2 percent.”
Dupke said 60 percent of infected persons show no symptoms, but are still conta- gious. The majority of those are 20 years of age and under. In children, only 20 percent develop a temperature. For 80 percent, fever is not the chief complaint, but cough, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting instead.
Steps are being taken to be safer, he said, but the only way for the pandemic to be over is if a vaccine is developed or “herd immunity” makes the population immune. He said it will take years for Cameron Parish to achieve herd immunity.