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Critics Denounce Poly U's Request for More Funding

Chris Urso

In a move that's prompting a round of "I told you so's" from critics, Florida Polytechnic University trustees are asking state legislators for $25 million in additional funding.

The Tampa Tribune reports those who stood opposed to creating the new university last year are again voicing their displeasure.

"I told my colleagues and I told the governor last year that this was going to be a monstrous cost," said state Rep. Mike Fasano, a Republican from New Port Richey who was in the Senate at the time. "Very few people wanted to listen. Now it's coming back to haunt them." Added Paula Dockery, a Republican from Lakeland who has since left the state Senate: "It was extremely easy to see that there would be a huge financial cost. Anybody who said otherwise, or tried to lead the Legislature to believe otherwise, shame on them."

Florida Polytechnic was created mainly at the behest of Senate appropriations chair JD Alexander (R-Lake Wales), who pushed the bill directly to the Senate floor without committee hearings. Alexander said the school, which had been known first as USF Lakeland and then USF Polytechnic, needed to be independent from USF.

"It's just so disappointing," Fasano said. "It was just common sense. There's no way you can build a 12th university and think they're not going to come back and ask for more money."

While that move took $88 million in funds and assets from USF's budget, more than $109 million has already been set aside for Poly. Now, trustees want more money to complete its first state-of-the-art building.

The Tribune reports that at a recent Florida Polytechnic  board of trustees retreat in Orlando, chief operating officer Ava Parker was directed to request $25 million in additional funds for infrastructure, a utility plant, and fixtures for the landmark Innovation, Science and Technology building.

"I am aware of the plan that was previously presented," said the COO. "This board is looking at that plan and making changes as it determines how to respond to the academic needs of the state."
Florida Polytechnic_0.jpg
Credit Florida Polytechnic University
Architect Santiago Calatrava's design of Florida Polytechnic University's first building

Parker also said the building construction is on time and on budget; she considers the building cost of $109 million and the build-out cost of $25 million to be separate.

The Tribune reports Fasano wasn't surprised by the request.

"It's just so disappointing," he said. "It was just common sense. There's no way you can build a 12th university and think they're not going to come back and ask for more money."

At the same time, the Lakeland Ledger reports that questions still remain about Florida Polytechnic's plans to obtain accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

Consultant Cynthia Balogh of MGT of America advised the board it will take about 3½ to four years to obtain  accreditation once an application is submitted and the process begins. If student enrollment were to start in the fall of 2014 — a target board members say would be "pushing it" — then Florida Poly could be accredited by December 2016, Balogh said. "That is ambitious," she said. "It's very ambitious, but it's not impossible."

Florida Polytechnic hired its first academic employee (and only second employee overall), Provost  Ghazi Darkazalli, just last month.

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