In baseball, it’s three strikes and you’re out. In the criminal justice system, it’s three strikes and you face more prison time.
But administrators say three vetoes in three years by a Florida governor won’t stop Palm Beach State College from building its planned campus here. Instead, it will merely make the school consider all its options about how to pay for it.
“The (last) veto was just another hurdle to jump,” PBSC President Dennis Gallon said. “It’s not a dead end. As long as there is a need in that area, we will continue to make plans to build that campus.”
On Monday Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $368 million from the state budget that legislators approved last month. That total included the $6.5 million the college sought to help it build on 75 acres on the northwest corner of B Road and Southern Boulevard.
In June 2011, Scott vetoed $615.3 million from the state budget, which eliminated almost 50 building projects, including $7.3 million earmarked for the campus. In 2010, then-Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed $19.8 million in state money the college had sought for the campus.
Gallon acknowledged the third veto surprised him.
“I thought we had laid out justification for the project and had broad-based support from local legislators, the business community and community leaders,” Gallon said.
Loxahatchee Groves Mayor Dave Browning, a proponent of the campus, said Scott’s decision didn’t disappoint him.
“The governor was basically saying that he doesn’t feel the time is right, not that there’s not going to be a college,” Browning said. “It’s just a temporary thing.”
Once again, Palm Beach State must decide how to raise money to pay for construction costs. The first phase, which most likely will include a 40,000-square-foot building for classes and offices, will cost about $8 million, the college has said.
The school also must pay another $5 million for site work.
Gallon said PBSC can use a credit-hour fee paid by students that can be used only for capital improvement projects. The school also could issue bonds. Another funding source, Gallon said, could be capital and philanthropic donations.
Two years ago, after the second veto, Richard Becker, the college’s vice president for administration and business services, said Palm Beach State would have to get creative financially.
For instance, Becker said if the school built a parking garage as part of the project, it could use the revenue generated from the garage to help pay for the campus. Gallon said all those options remain on the table.
If the state money had come through, Gallon said construction would’ve started late this year or early next year. Now he said he’s not sure when it will start.
“We haven’t been able to assess what (the veto) has done to that timeline, but I would suspect it hasn’t changed dramatically,” he said.
The seven-year campus effort has been no stranger to obstacles.
After the town council in August approved the last major land approvals Palm Beach State needed to sign a construction contract, a group of residents gathered 267 signatures on a petition to halt the project, saying they wanted to put the issue to a town vote.
But Town Clerk Susan Eichhorn in February deemed the petition insufficient because all the necessary paperwork wasn’t in order. The town council a month later supported that decision. The group is now challenging that ruling in court.
“What a huge waste of taxpayer dollars by the town and the college,” said Robert Hartsell, the Pompano Beach attorney representing the group opposing the campus. “Millions of dollars wasted on a cow pasture.”
Gallon, of course, doesn’t see it that way. The college, he said, will continue to ask for state funds.
“There is not a limit to the number of times we can seek legislative support for this project,” he said.