Sprinkle list: Senate, House sprinkle some love on UCF

UCF
All is forgiven? After 3 sparse years, UCF is a top Central Florida winner in state supplemental appropriations.

Treated like a legislative red-headed step child the past couple of years, the University of Central Florida got some love from the Legislature Wednesday — with $20 million in operational support sprinkles.

The Senate and House supplemental appropriations released Wednesday night each earmarked $10 million for UCF. One called the funds “operational enhancements,” the other, “operational support.”

As a bonus, both of UCF’s appropriations would come from recurring general fund money, meaning they could be expected to repeat in 2023.

UCF is the biggest Central Florida beneficiary, after the Senate and House appropriations committees divvied up the spare cash they were allotted once they finished writing the rest of the state’s 2022-23 budget.

All totaled, the Senate had $511.8 million to sprinkle on projects and programs around the state beyond what is included in the 2022 state budget. The House’s sprinkle list totaled $248.3 million.

Other Central Florida sprinkles would send extra money to the cities of Kissimmee, Melbourne, Minneola, Mount Dora, Oakland, Oviedo and Sanford, the AdventHealth Orlando hospital system, Lake Sumter State College, and the House of Hope in Orlando.

UCF was appropriated big supplemental operational dollars after the university had been only spoon-fed appropriations since 2019. That year saw a scandal in which UCF was found to have played fast-and-loose with as much as $85 million in state money over the previous few years.

After the scandal played out, UCF cleaned house with its administration and board. In 2020, UCF brought in a new president, Alexander Cartwright, with a background and mission to restore control, faith and confidence. The university has since risen in national ratings.

The $20 million in supplemental appropriations may signal all is considered well and forgiven, as far as the Legislature is concerned. That amount is in line with what Florida State and the University of Florida were appropriated, and far more than most other state universities. Florida A&M University got a $27.7 million sprinkle, but that was for new utility infrastructure, listed as a one-time appropriation.

“This increase in UCF’s base funding will allow the university to continue to produce STEM jobs for an increasingly high-tech workforce, hire world-class faculty and expand our research,” UCF spokesman Mark Schlueb said in an email Wednesday night. “This focus on quality will help UCF boost our ranking to a top 50 public university, a key goal as we work to become the university for the future.”

Like all budget line-items, they’re subject to the Governor’s vetoes, and Gov. Ron DeSantis has shown no hesitation to wield the red pen on UCF in the past.

Among other Central Florida supplemental appropriations:

— The House is appropriating $175,000 from the House for the House of Hope, a safe-haven residential program for troubled teens.

— The Senate provides $475,000 for AdventHealth Orlando’s Advanced Genomics for Critically Ill Newborns unit.

— The Senate provides $8 million to Minneola for the phase two construction of Citrus Grove Road.

— The Senate provides $750,000 to the city of Sanford for construction of a parking facility.

— The Senate provides $300,000 to Kissimmee for an annex for the public safety training center.

— The Senate provides $3.8 million to Lake-Sumter College for its Emerging Media and Fine Arts Center implementation and renovation, and another $2.5 million for operational enhancement.

— The Senate provides $650,000 to Melbourne for its Spring Creek water quality project.

— The Senate provides Mount Dora $103,835 for improvements or flow mitigation.

— The Senate provides Oakland with $1.25 million for its South Lake Apopka alternative water project.

— The Senate provides Oviedo with $250,000 for its percolation pond decommissioning.

Both the House and Senate get millions in tax revenue to play with near the end of budget negotiations. That money is spread across different projects in what’s known in legislative parlance as the “sprinkle list.”

The House and Senate released their “sprinkle lists” Wednesday evening. Leaders agreed on $759 million for local projects.

The release of the list is a sign budget negotiations are wrapped and the Legislature will hit its new planned end date of Monday, March 14.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]



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