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College Priorities and the SFCC Auditorium Renovation
We occasionally hear of concerns such as those raised by Sam in his “priorities” comment under the February 18 Editorial in the News Sun.
The Fine Arts Building renovation that includes the SFCC Auditorium has been a part of the College’s Capital Improvement Plan and Project Priority List for several years, since before the current recession was anticipated. The building is 30 years old and doesn’t meet modern standards for access and life safety nor does it meet our expectation for presenting and hosting the many programs that are made possible because this facility exists. More than 100 programs, including the popular Artist Series and Matinee Series, but also including many educational programs for public school children, graduations, community events, etc., are held in the SFCC Auditorium each year. It allows for much more than just cultural enrichment, although that is very important for sure.
The College has already received much of the funding for this project and the money for the initial feasibility study and architectural/engineering work was received and spent over the past three years—again, before the current recession. Also, the Governor and the Legislature are encouraging the acceleration of building construction and renovation projects in order to stimulate the local economy. Furthermore, the funding of the project derives from a restricted source and from private fund-raising. It cannot be spent for college operational expenses, and it cannot be spent for student scholarships. It would be against the law to spend it on anything other than this project and the State will audit the College to ensure that we are in strict compliance with the funding restrictions.
If, for some reason we chose to cancel or stop the auditorium renovation, the money we have already spent would have been wasted and the remainder would go back to the State where it would be reallocated to some other college or university construction project in some other part of Florida. Finally, because the bidding environment is quite favorable, the project will be completed at a considerable savings compared to the initial cost estimates when the architectural design work was completed last year.
Most SFCC students (more than 80 percent) receive some form of financial assistance and we work with our students to remove financial barriers whenever possible. As stated above, the money received for the Fine Arts Facility (SFCC Auditorium) cannot be used for financial aid or for student scholarships. It comes from different sources with legal restrictions on its use.
I hope this clarifies our priorities.