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Florida unlikely to see any money for new school construction

TALLAHASSEE — There isn't likely to be any new money for school construction and maintenance for the next few years, Florida economists said Friday.

That's because state officials expect to receive less revenue next year from the Gross Receipts Tax, a tax on electric, telephone and cable bills that supports the Public Education Capital Outlay, or PECO, fund.

Adding to the problem, the state will no longer be able to sell a $250 million bond issue — and will have to pay down existing projects out of a cash account, said Amy Baker, director of the Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research. The result: no new PECO money until 2014-15, according to the latest predictions.

For a time, public school districts, community colleges and universities relied heavily on PECO dollars to support new construction and routine maintenance. But the dollars have been steadily dwindling.

This year, traditional school districts did not receive PECO money. About $55 million went to the state's charter schools. Public colleges and universities received about $57 million.

In light of the projection, state officials this week stopped payments to some projects, including some that may only be halfway completed. Additionally, Gov. Rick Scott asked schools and colleges to return as much as $250 million to the state to cover other projects already approved.

"Due to this significant shortfall, it has become necessary for difficult decisions to be made on which projects may be funded and which must be discontinued at this point in time," Scott wrote in a letter that he sent out to top education officials Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Florida unlikely to see any money for new school construction 01/13/12 [Last modified: Friday, January 13, 2012 10:25pm]
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