Levy school, college money in final state budget bill

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Residents can contact governor's office to keep it, not veto it

By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

Startup money for a new Williston Middle/High School and Levy Campus for the College of Central Florida has been included in the state budget for 2014-2015 that was approved by the state Legislature last week and is heading to the governor's office. 

That might be a signal that Levy County residents should start contacting Gov. Rick Scott's Office to lobby him to keep the $4.3 million in planning and construction money for the college campus that would be located on 35 acres north of Chiefland on U.S. Highway 19 and the $11, 471,700 earmarked for the Williston school. 

Both are just initial payments on projects that would cost about $14 million total for the college campus and $33 million for the middle/high school.  The money for the middle/high school would be paid over a three-year period, while the college money is a one-time allotment. The college will have to go back to the Legislature for more appropriations to complete the project. 

While the need for both education facilities is apparent to students, residents and business in Levy County, the college funding has felt the sting of governors' vetoes three times ? once by former Gov. Charlie Crist and twice by Scott. 

The last veto of the college money came after Florida Tax Watch called the $4.25 million appropriation in the 2013-14 budget a “turkey” because it was not in the state Division of Colleges budget request and the project was ranked 16 out of 39. It was ranked No. 1 on last year's list of state budget turkeys for the governor to veto. 

One factor in favor of the new Williston's school budget item is that House Speaker Will Weatherford, in a speech at the annual Levy Schools Foundation Gala in February, said he was in favor of giving the county the money for the new school. But nothing is sure until the budget bill is sent tot he governor's office, his staff studies it and the governor himself signs the bill. 

Supporters of the two education projects can contact Gov. Scott's office by calling 850-717-9337 or sending an email by going to the governor's website at www.flgov.com/contact-gov-scott/email-the-governor or sending a letter to Office of Governor Rick Scott

, State of Florida, 

The Capitol

, 400 S. Monroe St., 

Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001