National Opinions

Past, present trustees set record straight on State College of Florida finances

As former and current trustees of the State College of Florida, we want to set the record straight on the misperceptions and erroneous statements, or implications, made by some current members about finances and projects that occurred under our oversight.

We are concerned that the continued repetition of these misperceptions, specifically relating to costs associated with the Collegiate School and tennis courts, will be accepted as truth.

Here are the facts:

Some members of the current board use the figure of $5 million as the cost of the construction and operation of the Collegiate School. To reach this inflated amount, utilities, custodial, security, all technology (hardware and software for both operating and infrastructure) would have to be included. This standard does not exist for any other college program.

The actual renovation cost was about $2 million less.

In addition, the renovated facility is not limited just to Collegiate School functions, but continues to serve as an asset to the college.

Furthermore, the building that houses SCFCS was slated for renovation as part of the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) even if the idea of the Collegiate School had not originated.

The final budget proposal that we approved as part of the contract with the Manatee School District clearly showed a beginning operating deficit that would reach a break-even point by the 2013-14 academic year. The college is on schedule for that to happen.

Likewise, as was clearly pointed out at the 2009 workshop and board meeting, PECO and specific charter school dollars from the state would be used to recoup the construction costs of the building.

The Collegiate School was perceived to be a college program in the same integral way that nursing is a college program. There was never the intent for the school to "pay back" the renovation costs.

The college is on schedule, on budget and highly successful in SCFCS's mission to graduate students from sixth grade to the associate degree with no remediation, and two years of reduced FTE taxes and tuition for parents, and with a full scholarship to Florida Gulf Coast University.

Likewise, the tennis courts were approved by the previous board as part of a larger concept. We wanted a new gym to be put on the CIP list and that was done in 2009 when the board put the remodeling of the gym as the No. 1 priority. It was kept as the No. 2 priority (after the library) on the 2010 CIP.

As the tennis courts were being planned, a scenario was included to attach a new gymnasium, something this board had intentions of having built along with the courts to create a new athletic/classroom/wellness center complex. Thus, the tennis courts became part of a broader master plan that was included in the design costs.

Along with this was a planned initiative to seek external funding through the college foundation. When sufficient funding was not forthcoming, the tennis courts were the only design element carried forward. While the gym component was postponed, the innovative architectural plans for the facility still exist to be used when funding becomes a reality.

At the same time, construction involving underground piping and infrastructure serving the parking lot, ball fields and portables was beginning.

Dr. Lars Hafner, with our knowledge, approved an early start for the tennis courts as a means to get the most efficient use of those funds already allocated for construction purposes. At the next regular meeting we ratified the early start and authorized the full expenditures of the courts.

For a majority of the current board to say otherwise and say there is fiscal mismanagement for actions that we gave unanimous approval to pursue is to rewrite history and repudiate the fiduciary decisions of our board.

We praise SCF President Hafner and his fiscally conservative leadership, as has been evident by the last several years of clean financial audits. The record clearly shows that we were fully informed in the decisions regarding the Collegiate School and tennis courts and at every instance gave approval and authority.

Ronald J. Allen, served as the chairman of the State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota Board of Trustees in 2010-2011 and Susan Miller Kelly is also a former board member. Joe Miller currently sits on the board.