AB 8 compromise crucial for future of soaring eagles
Published: Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 20:08
State cuts to education funding are for the birds. With the Aug. 17 announcement by President Bradshaw in a letter to faculty, staff and students, Academic Building 8 rose from the ashes of state budgetary cuts like a phoenix ready for a second chance at life.
AB 8 had been temporarily sent to roost in May when Gov. Rick Scott cut $4.5 million from the state budget, funds previously designated for furnishing and equipping the future health professions building.
The budget cuts came soon after Florida TaxWatch, a private, not-for-profit organization, designated the building project funding a "turkey."
But what is a turkey? According to the Turkey Watch Report 2011, a 10-page guide found on the Florida TaxWatch website, Academic Building 8 was deemed a turkey based largely upon a guideline used for educational expenditures. The guideline states, "As with other parts of the budget, projects added in conference are usually called a turkey, regardless of the inclusion on approved lists."
The rescue of AB 8 comes at a cost. In order for FGCU to fund the completion of the project in time for the proposed January 2012 opening, the planned solar panels will be sacrificed. In addition, the opening comes at the cost of other campus improvements — namely the south access road project and a boardwalk from South Village housing to the main campus. While it is disappointing for a campus committed to sustainability to open a new building without the use of solar energy, the cuts, when combined with contingency funds, will allow AB 8 to open on schedule.
But few in the campus community seem to be crying "fowl." According to a recent Eagle News poll, 98 percent of respondents were in favor of the shift in funds to finish AB 8.
AB 8 is important not only to the continued growth of FGCU, but also to the surrounding community where the struggling economy is on the minds of many. In the past 30 days, 25 percent of the positions listed on Career Builder in six cities across Lee County were tagged as "health care" positions. Thanks to the creative shuffling of projects, FGCU is once again poised to continue training students to fill these positions, but the funding never should have been cut in the first place.
Expanded programs equate to more jobs — immediately in the form of professors and staff, and long-term in the form of qualified Eagle alumni entering the workforce.