Myself and co-author put together this piece to contact Florida's officials.
Southwest Florida is facing devastating economic times. President Obama recently came to our area to see firsthand the challenges facing the hardworking people in one of the hardest foreclosure regions in the country. With so many of southwest Florida's economies being hurt (Real estate, Tourism, Construction), educational institutions provide necessary, vital economic and intellectual stimulus. We add a seriously beneficial effect to the regional economies of southwest Florida –over 20 million dollars a year is generated by FGCU's presence within the community.
Two years ago the unemployment rate of our county was 3.4 percent. Last year that same rate was 6.7 percent. Last month: 12.2 percent. The community and economy of Lee County seems to be a battered ship fighting to stay anchored. Next month, next year: what will the unemployment rate be? Where will this ship be blown by these fierce economic winds? FGCU is one of the anchors providing some stability through these stormy times. With each new cut to our budget, however, the hold of FGCU's anchor weight is likewise reduced thus increasing the community's risk of being blown out to sea. Continued cuts to FGCU's budget will reduce, perhaps beyond repair, the opportunity for Lee county residents and the county as a whole to recover.
We highly encourage your efforts to support higher education and specifically Florida Gulf Coast University. Add to this fact the large populations of Floridians returning to pursue advanced degrees for retraining into jobs that are needed in the southwest Florida economy. FGCU must figure prominently into the Florida's legislature plan to stabilize and bring dramatic economic growth to the entire population of Florida. To do so, FGCU needs your support to help the economy of southwest Florida. Your effects may even serve to jumpstart the entire Florida economy.
Concerned State of Florida Employees
PS Please remember that FGCU's direct economic impact generates massive income for the regional economies of southwest Florida. With reduced funding, our impact is minimal at best in these critical times.
Dear FGCU Students, Faculty and Staff:
As we have been sharing with you, the Florida Legislature is dealing with major economic challenges as it works to adopt a state budget that will take effect July 1 for all state entities, including FGCU. The Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate have significant differences in their proposed budgets, and there are potentially devastating budget cuts on the horizon for the state universities. These budget cuts would be in addition to the last two years of budget cuts for FGCU, in which 11% of our state operating budget has been cut on a recurring basis.
BUDGET CUTS FOR FGCU:
Budget negotiations in Tallahassee are happening quickly at this late stage of the legislative session, and the stakes for access to higher education are very high. The Senate budget contains for FGCU an operating budget cut of $5.8 million. The House of Representatives budget contains for FGCU an operating budget cut of $11 million. While the Senate budget cut would have a very challenging effect on FGCU, the House budget cut would be devastating for us.
In addition, the House budget contains a salary reduction for all state employees, including FGCU, of 4% for employees earning $26,400 and above, and 5% for employees earning $80,000 and above. The Senate budget's salary reductions do not apply to state university employees. It is important to note that the salary reduction provisions are the subject of budget negotiations, and thus are a moving target.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
It is important to share with legislators in key budget-deciding positions the potentially devastating effects of the proposed cuts on FGCU. I encourage you to email these legislators, and in a respectful and professional manner urge them to adopt a state budget that minimizes additional cuts to higher education. We recognize that the budget challenges are enormous and that legislators are dealing with a very difficult set of economic circumstances. However, we want to emphasize to them that access to higher education in the State University System is a critical element of economic and workforce development, a vital cornerstone in economic recovery for our region, state and nation.
If you would like to assist in sharing this message with key legislators, please do so on your non-work time and on your personal computer from home. Timeliness is critical, as state budget negotiations must conclude in the next few days (including the weekend) if the legislature is to end on its scheduled time.
Provided here is contact information for these key legislators.
Representative Larry Cretul - House Speaker
Representative Dean Cannon - House Speaker-Designate
Representative David Rivera - Chair of House Full Appropriations Council on Education & Economic Development
Senator Jeff Atwater - Senate President
Senator J.D. Alexander - Chair of the Senate Policy and Steering Committee on Ways and Means
Thank you for your continued support and hard work in providing access to higher education through FGCU. We will keep you posted as additional information becomes available.
President Wilson Bradshaw
Florida Gulf Coast University