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News Clips 03/22/2013
Florida Polytechnic Officials, Stargel Lobby Senate to Keep University in Budget
Source: Lakeland Ledger, 03/22/13
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Winter Haven News-Chief
By Bill Rufty
State Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, spent most of Thursday morning meeting with Senate leaders to talk about a hold put on money for Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland.
Stargel said she talked with Senate President Don Gaetz, Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Joe Negron and most of the subcommittee chairs and heard their message: Florida Poly officials need to show the Senate what they plan to do with the $21.4 million listed in a draft of this year's budget.
And they need the answer soon. Because of Passover and Easter, the Legislature will meet only on Wednesday and Thursday of next week. But those two days are when the appropriations subcommittees in both House and Senate will finalize their proposed budgets and send them to the full appropriations committees in each chamber.
That means Florida Poly must get its plans to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education by the middle of next week.
In the House, the money already is in the proposed budget.
Gaetz said Thursday that the school's board of trustees needs to show whether the money is going to operate the school or to help build the campus.
Senate leaders had complained earlier this week that the school's leaders hadn't communicated with them about the budget.
After talking with people for the past two days, Stargel said she is convinced the money for Florida Poly will be restored in the Senate budget proposal.
"Florida Polytechnic University is clearly needed in our state," she said. "I believe in the polytechnic model (which emphasizes science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and I am convinced that this is the right step for Florida in terms of economic development and jobs," she said in a release following her morning meetings.
Stargel, who also met with Florida Poly Chief Operating Officer Ava Parker, said the senators will get their answers.
"The Board of Florida Polytechnic is working hard to start this new school on a road to success. As the Legislature sees the board's plans, they will understand this university should receive the support and the funding that it requires," Stargel said.
If the board misses being included in the budget next week, plans still can be presented at the full Appropriations Committee sessions in two weeks, but it might be tougher.
The Legislature created Florida Poly during its session last year.
A $98 million building is under construction in northeastern Lakeland. The school's board members have said they hope to get students into classrooms there by the fall of 2014.