Polk State College is celebrating a successful conclusion to the 2021 Legislative Session. After a very challenging year for the College and Polk County, the results of the legislative session provide some hope and optimism as the community continues to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thanks to the leadership of Senator Kelli Stargel, in the position of Chair of Senate Appropriations, and that of the Polk County delegation, Polk State emerged from the session without reductions, and with an additional $5 million in recurring operational funding, $2.2 million in Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) funds for campus-wide safety and security enhancements, and $16.3 million in COVID-19 relief funds to address renovations to Building 4 on the Polk State Winter Haven Campus.
“Our local delegates heard our concerns, supported us, and have made an investment in Polk State that will serve generations of students and their families. Our College is greatly appreciative of their efforts.”
Dr. Angela Garcia Falconetti
President, Polk State College
“I extend my sincerest gratitude to the members of the Polk County Legislative Delegation who are incredible advocates for our students, institution, and the Polk community,” Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti said. “Our local delegates heard our concerns, supported us, and have made an investment in Polk State that will serve generations of students and their families. Our College is greatly appreciative of their efforts.”
“Florida is fortunate to be in a much better place today than when we started our budget planning last summer,” Senator Stargel said. “Revenue estimates have continued to improve, as have actual month-to-month collections, providing opportunities to offset the significant reductions that we thought would be necessary back in August when we were looking at a $5.4 billion revenue loss.”
“As Chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, it was important to me that we not only increase operational dollars for the College, but also recognize that with nonrecurring federal funding we have a historic opportunity to make investments in Florida’s infrastructure across our college and university system,” she added. “These investments not only enhance the educational opportunities for our students, but they bolster our local economies, providing good jobs Florida families want and need.”
Operational funding has long been a critical issue for the College, as it strives to enhance services to further support student retention and completion and to provide access to higher education for individuals throughout the Polk County community. In past legislative sessions, the College has called upon the community to assist in advocating for these funds – most recently in 2019 to assist in maintaining the College’s Lake Wales Campus which serves rural southeast Polk County.
This legislative budget process also had its challenges. At one critical point, Florida College System institutions, including Polk State, were facing significant reductions in their operational budgets. The proposed $4.4 million reduction for Polk State would have been catastrophic.
While the 2021 Regular Legislative Session has ended, the budget is not complete until Governor DeSantis has signed it. President Falconetti and members of the Polk State College District Board of Trustees will continue to advocate and promote the College and its needs until that takes place.