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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

BOG on PECO: It's pretty bleak out there...

18

January

 ... But we all knew that, right? 

Kicking off the Florida Board of Governors meeting on Wednesday was a candid discussion about the crisis that is PECO funding. PECO, or Public Education Capital Outlay, is money committed to schools for construction projects and maintenance. It's raised through taxes on utilities. In years past it's allowed schools to grow and flourish -- just look at the University of Central Florida, which is now the second largest in the nation. But more recently, funding for the program is drying up.

"The situation has not gotten better," said the board's director of finance and facilities, Chris Kinsley, "In fact, it's gotten worse."

Recent estimates show no new money will be available for the next two years. "Absolutely zero," Kinsley said. And now Florida Gov. Rick Scott is asking the universities to return $250 million in previously authorized bonds.

In light of that, the Board of Governors, the Department of Education and the Florida College System are working to identify $250 million-worth of projects that can be halted until the situation improves. The state education leaders asked schools across the state to provide lists of their outstanding projects, and asked them not to sign any contracts until they can work out a solution. Scott asked for the board's recommendations by Feb. 7.

And don't forget about maintenance. Kinsley said the BOG has currently has a maintenance balance of $85 million -- money that hasn't been dispersed for needed upkeep projects. But the question is, should the universities spend it now, or save it for when they need it? 

"We're just holding onto every time," Kinsley said. "Hoping to avoid the worst."

[Last modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 4:21pm]

    

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