News, Sports and Entertainment for St. Martin Parish, La.

Parish might not be able to support child advocates

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Karl Jeter

At the Parish Council meeting on Tuesday, June 7, Brandan Trahan of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) made an appeal for support from the parish.
CASA is a non-profit organization with 18 regional branches in Louisiana. Locally, Bayou CASA serves St. Martin, St. Mary and Iberia parishes. They operate through court-appointed volunteer child advocates. Volunteers are screened and trained by CASA.
Their stated mission is to speak in court for children in the legal system, and “serve as the eyes and ears of the judge in working collaboratively to find safe and permanent, nurturing homes for Louisiana’s most vulnerable children.”
The organization received funding from the state until the Attorney General’s Office ended funding last year. Trahan said that the organization will not be able to continue unless new funding sources can be found.
Parish legal advisor Chester Cedars told the council that there are probably constitutional obstacles that prevent parish government funding. It would amount, he said, to public funding of a private organization, which is not allowed by law. He said that his recommendation was not intended as a judgement of the worthiness of organization or its mission.
In other business, Parish President Guy Cormier presented an analysis of the eight parish property tax millage rates for the year. Property values are reassessed every four years and millage rates are set annually. The latest reassessment shows an increase of more than 3.5 percent in parish property values.
The general alimony millage rate will be reduced slightly, keeping tax receipts at about the same level. The other seven millages will remain the same as last year.
The maximum allowable levy for each millage was set by voters in 2014, and all of the new parish government millage rates will remain below that level. Cormier said property owners will pay just over $10.9 million parish wide, nearly $2 million less than the maximum allowable rate.
Interestingly, as a measure of growth, property values in the parish totalled about $110 million in 2000. The current assessment is over $375 million. In 1975, total property values totaled just $25.5 million.
The Sheriff’s Office operates on its own separate millage, and Sheriff Ronny Theriot intends to increase that to the maximum allowable levy this year.
Also, the contract for the next phase of the Beau Bayou Restoration project was awarded to the lowest bidder, LeBlanc Marine, L.L.C. At $1.662 million, it is well below the $2.2 million budgeted. Cormier said the project will result in cleaner water and better flood water drainage in this popular Atchafalaya Basin fishing area. District 1 Councilman Byron Fuselier gave much credit to his predecessor, Carroll “Coach” Delahoussaye, for many years of effort that helped in bringing about the vital project.

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