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FGC Budget Prelude: May 14 Workshop Was In Good Measure Unintelligible, Budget: $21,805,664 

Photo of board workshop
Florida Representative Chuck Brannon in blue sports jacket. He was almost 100% unintelligible.

callout: The college is sitting on $8.2 mil of unreserved cash. This years budget revenue is $21,805,664COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – On May 14, 2019, the Florida Gateway College Governor's appointed board met to discuss the college budget and other things. Much of what was said was unintelligible, particularly the comments by Florida Representative Chuck Brannon, whose back was to the audience.

With the Florida Gateway College (FGC) budget year set to begin on July, 1 the May 14 workshop included a budget discussion.

The Room & the Law

The FGC board met in the library for it workshop. Florida's Sunshine Law requires FGC board meetings are public meetings; being a public meeting means that the public is supposed to be able to hear what the Governor's board and the college staff are saying; much of the discussion was inaudible.

While the meeting was not clandestine, the Governor's board clearly violated the letter and spirit of the law.

Mike McKee, Executive Director of Media and Public Information, is President Barrett's right hand man and number two man on the college totem pole under President Barrett. Mr. McKee is also the spokesperson for the College. He was on hand for the meeting.

No microphones were available at the meeting for the board or the staff. Representative Brannon's back was towards the audience, which was not only rude, but thoughtless and unnecessary.

The Budget Discussion

President Barrett, who is not soft-spoken, said the college was not getting money for the STEM building. He claimed "politics played out' and that FGC got bumped.

Newly elected Florida Representative Chuck Brannon, who sits on the FGC Board, didn't have the juice to push the project through.

Representative Brannon appeared to explain something about the STEM building funding, however, with his back to the audience and being soft-spoken, most of his words were garbled, difficult, and impossible to comprehend.

Board Chair and veteran FGC board member Suzanne Norris weighed in and it was more of the same. Not enough of her words were understandable to know what she said.

President Barrett explained that funding for duel enrollment was cut from the upcoming state budget, which means that FGC will not get state funds for its dual enrollment program.

President Barrett said that State Education Commissioner Corcoran may allocate "some more state dollars," however, Pres. Barrett added, "FGC doesn't meet the student enrollment for those funds."

President Barrett said performance funding is gone. FGC lost $300k. He said that performance funding helped the students and "helped the bottom line."

FGC President Lawrence Barrett
He uses the President Trump Play Book

Like President Trump, FGC President Barrett is fast and loose with his derogatory remarks about others and threw in a dig at Miami Dade and Hillsboro Colleges.

Discussing the loss of funding, President Barrett said, "Schools like Miami Dade and Hillsboro, which did nothing over the years because they didn't perform well received about 10 million dollars -unintelligible- this year."

President Barrett said "renovation and rehab money is gone for the first time in 30 years."

Representative Brannon weighed in again, but was totally unintelligible.

President Barrett said the college received "$850,000 - $875,000 in new money," and also shared that the College did not use its allotment of last year's rehab money ($530k).

Fund Balance The Big Issue
The Highest Stash of Florida's 28 Colleges

President Lawrence Barrett facing camera. on his left is Sharon Best, the college's number three person
President Barrett (facing camera) was the only one who could be heard - most of the time.

FGC is sitting on a stash of unrestricted money: $8.2 mil.

President Barrett told the board, "We're required to come up with a plan of how to spend down that fund balance to 5%."

Barrett explained that FGC was "the highest of all 28 colleges; we are at 35%. We have about $8.2mil. That hurts sometimes when we look at a building.

Someone spoke up. The words were completely incomprehensible.

Pres. Barrett opined on the gravity of the excess funds. He said: "The question is are we going to get nailed on the audit. The answer we've heard is yes - unintelligible. The auditor general will not agree to –unintelligible. That's going to be a major issue."

He continued, "We're still in good shape regardless of the bad news because of the good stewardness [sic] and because of enrollment growth."

The schools budget officer weighed in and was completely unintelligible.

Board member Tepedino thought they should spend the money on something big.

Pres. Barrett told the board, "If we had $30mil, without the building [STEM], we could spend it tomorrow to get this campus where we need it to be."

He did not explain any of the work that needed to make the college "where it needed to be" or why the college accumulated 35% of its budget in fund balance without making the college "where it needed to be."

Pres. Barrett said, "We have a plan to spend it down. We have a tentative plan already." He did not give any indication what was in his plan.

Representative Brannon weighed in. Again he was mostly unintelligible. However, seemingly referring to the kyboshed STEM building he said, "I would bet that you would get that money come January.

According to President Barrett he has been meeting with the president of North Florida about sharing resources and curriculum. He said they are going to talk more this summer.

Pay Raise: Faculty & Staff Only

It was mentioned that there was going to be a 4% pay raise.

Ms. Norris asked how 4% matches up against other schools in FGC's peer group.

Pres. Barrett:  "We're about 23d out of 28. We are extremely low in our standpoint of our clerical and our professional staff. We are 22 out of 28... In the past it showed we were significantly low.... unintelligible."

Pres. Barrett mentioned that Sante Fe College gives out one time bonuses and two years ago they did a 9% base... He also threw in a dig about Sante Fe.

President Barrett did not explain the amounts of FGC's prior year raises.

FGC's Vice President of Finance, Denise Holloway explained that in 2018 the school had an unallocated fund balance of 28% and that to reduce the fund balance they would be requesting to use of $1.6 mil in the FY 2019-20 budget.

FY 2019-20's budget (revenue) of $21,805,664 represents a 1/2 million dollar increase over last year.

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