City OKs CARES Act funds to help CISD with technology
The Cameron City Council proposed a tax rate for the coming year and ordered the November election for one spot on the council during a meeting Monday night.
The council also approved an agreement with Cameron ISD to use $50,000 of the funds from the CARES Act to help with the purchase of devices for CISD students should they need to return to online learning at some point this semester.
Cameron ISD Superintendent Kevin Sprinkles was on hand to explain the funding to the council.
“Last spring when the schools were closed by the governor we had to come up with a remote learning platform for our kids,” Sprinkles said. “We have previously bought devices and were one-to-one with certain grade levels, we rallied and found a way to put something together for remote instruction.”
Sprinkles said the issues they found with remote instruction were the same ones the state found. There were several students who couldn’t connect because they didn’t have Internet access. There were students who couldn’t participate because they didn’t have a device to participate in remote instruction.
“When everyone in the state is participating in remote instruction that becomes an issue,” he said, “especially when students are disconnecting from their learning. We don’t want a generation of kids in that situation.”
Sprinkles said the state has funded about half of the cost of the devices it will take for all students in Cameron ISD to have a device in hand should it be needed over the coming months due to students needing to be quarantined or a situation where schools are shut down again. The total cost for the district was $202,000.
The state has funded half of that cost, which is $101,000, leaving Cameron ISD to fund the remaining cost. The project through the state is called Operation Connectivity.
Sprinkles said the funding could come out of fund balance for the district, but he requested that some funds from the city’s CARES Act allotment be used for the district’s allotment.
“I reached out to the county and Mr. Harris to see if there was an opportunity to partner with the city to help offset some of those costs,” he said. “Whatever amount the city might offer to the school district to help them offset their part, the Texas Education Agency is committing to match that amount. This is a great opportunity for us to partner up for our kids’ futures.”
Mayor Bill Harris said the CARES Act money is earmarked for use strictly related to COVID and that this would be a good use of those funds.
The city had already committed funds to the county for use in the renovations of the old hospital building for an urgent care facility. Harris said about $75,000 of the money is still remaining that won’t be used for that project.
The council voted to commit $50,000 of the CARE Act funds to Cameron ISD.
Council proposed a tax rate of 77 cents per $100 valuation during the meeting. That rate is just under the voter approved tax rate. A public hearing will be held on Sept. 8 before the council adopts the tax rate.
In other business, the Council ordered the November election for one spot on the council and entered into an agreement to hold a joint election with Milam County.
John Torres Sr., a Milam County Jail Lieutenant, will face Nathan Fuchs, a hatchery manager, for Ward 2. The winner will replace longtime councilman Bobby Schiller.
William Pratt, a railroad conductor, will face incumbent Lekethia “KeKe” Sims for Ward 4.
Mayor Bill Harris was uncontested in the race for mayor, so he was sworn in this past May.
Election Day is Nov. 3. Early voting will begin Oct. 13.
The council also voted to allow Cameron Industrial Foundation Director Ginger Watkins to move forward with creating a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone for the city. Watkins said the next step in the process is a public notice and public meeting about the project. Council directed Watkins to move forward.
In other business the council also: approved the audit engagement letter for this year, with Councilman Maurice Goza requesting that the city go pursue finding a different auditor for next year; approved moving the Sept. 7 meeting to Sept. 8 due to the Labor Day holiday; appointed Bill Harris, Maurice Goza and Neil Bahkta to the Cameron Economic Development Corporation; and approved to go out for bids for the property at 315 S. Travis (the empty lot behind the old police station).