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Lawmakers to Propose Millions to Shore up FAMU

Lawmakers to Propose Millions to Shore up FAMU

Two lawmakers say they will seek millions in state funds to help struggling Florida A&M University, days after an independent audit showed the school didn’t balance its books and often could not track how it spent money.
Sen. Al Lawson and Rep. Curtis Richardson, both Leon County Democrats with ties to the school, said they would seek funds from the Legislature to shore up the university’s academic programs and services like housing and financial aid. Lawson estimated the proposed package would total between $4 million and $6 million.

Gov. Jeb Bush said he would consider any proposal, but was not yet sure whether the school would require state assistance. “I don’t know if there is any mismanagement,” he said earlier this month. “I’ve not been apprised of a significant problem.”

The audit uncovered gaps of tens of millions of dollars between the school’s budgeting and actual spending, but Larry Reese, FAMU’s vice president for administrative and financial services, told trustees that differences have been reconciled since the auditors finished their work.

“The Legislature is going to have to be in a position to actually bail them out and put them on a solid footing,” Lawson said.

Richardson warned that lawmakers would be cautious. “We’re going to have to be assured that the processes are in place to make sure we’re not throwing good money after bad,” he said.

Acting FAMU president Dr. Castell Bryant said that she would offer legislators those assurances. She has drawn praise from Bush and both lawmakers for her work since taking over for Dr. Fred Gainous, who was fired in September following a tenure marked by bookkeeping problems and other disputes.

Bush said the state should work to protect students at the state’s only public historically Black university. “FAMU has not reached its potential,” he said.

“It is a great university with really talented students, and the adults haven’t completely fulfilled their part of the bargain yet. And these young people are suffering because of it,” Bush said.

Lawson said the proposal wouldn’t include money for the school’s athletics departments, which auditors said will lose $3.5 million this year. The school had to drop a proposed move up to Division I-A football because of money problems.

Lawson, a FAMU graduate, last year expressed interest in becoming president of the university, but he said that he’s not qualified for the post. But Richardson, whose district includes the FAMU campus, said “the university needs someone like Senator Lawson,” possibly in another executive role.

Associated Press

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