PBSC draws $6.5 million for new western campus in budget dealby John Kennedy | April 27th, 2013
Palm Beach State College is positioned to draw $6.5 million for its new and controversial Loxahatchee Groves campus under state budget decisions reached late Saturday by House and Senate negotiators.
Also set to be included in the state’s $74-billion-plus spending plan is about $3 million for water projects across Palm Beach County, including $1 million for utility upgrades in financially-strapped Belle Glade and $400,000 for drainage work in Riviera Beach.
“We’ve pretty much wrapped up the numbers portion of the budget,” said Senate Budget Chief Joe Negron, R-Stuart.
Negron and his House counterpart, Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, will continue efforts tomorrow to reach consensus on legislation and technical provisions needed to implement the budget for the year beginning July 1.
Lawmakers have been flush with cash this spring for the first time in seven years, and it showed in Saturday’s homestretch negotiations. When the House and Senate offered rival lists of utility projects and college and university building efforts, Negron and McKeel found money to finance them all.
Among spending getting the go-ahead is $1.3 million for environmental improvements on the Loxahatchee River and $475,000 for seagrass, reef and other work on the Lake Worth Lagoon.
But the Palm Beach State College money has the potential to have the biggest effect on the county.
PBSC has been working on getting a fifth campus for five years and, with Saturday’s budget agreement, looks close to landing state cash to accomplish that goal this year in Loxahatchee Groves.
Whatever is approved by lawmakers, remains subject to review by Gov. Rick Scott. He hinted this week that he may freely wield his veto pen after lawmakers vote on the budget — which is expected Friday, the legislative session’s final scheduled day.
PBSC spokeswoman Grace Truman earlier told the Post that school officials feel they have made a strong case for receiving state funds.
“We’ve had the money proposed before, even had it vetoed once, but when we spent $4.5 million last fall for the land, I think that showed our commitment to the new campus,” Truman said.
But a petition drive by almost 300 Loxahatchee Groves residents opposing expansion, and the commercial development it will bring, continues to cloud the site.
Opponents want the expansion put to a voter referendum. But the town clerk has ruled the petition failed to meet terms of the town charter. The clerk’s ruling is now subject of a lawsuit by a residents group opposed to the campus.