FAMU panel's chief decries its funding

Published May 12, 2007

The high-profile task force overseeing Florida A&M University's finances won't be able to hire a consultant and may have to scale back its work in light of less-than-expected legislative funding, its chairwoman said Friday. The task force wanted $3-million. It got $1-million.

"We're going to have a difficult job picking and choosing the things we can accomplish, " chairwoman Lynn Pappas told other members in a conference call. "It is not the scope of work I went into this hoping to accomplish."

The Board of Governors formed the task force in March, after the most recent state audit found continuing fiscal problems at FAMU.

The group was considering hiring a consultant that specializes in higher-education turnarounds, but even $3-million probably would have been short, given how much such consultants typically charge for work on comparable projects, Pappas said.

Instead, the task force will have to think long and hard about exactly what it wants to accomplish, and see if there are creative ways to draw resources and expertise from other universities, she said. Decisions about that will be made at the group's next meeting, tentatively scheduled for late June.

On a related issue, the task force decided it will weigh in on the next round of appointments to the FAMU board of trustees.

Three positions are vacant, with two to be filled by the Board of Governors and one by Gov. Charlie Crist. At the recommendation of the task force, Pappas will recommend in writing that the replacements have expertise in fiscal matters.

That background is critical, said task force member Joelen Merkel, an accountant who chairs the audit committee for the University of Florida board of trustees. "Part of the issue FAMU has faced is that it did not have that pool of knowledge to help them."

Ron Matus can be reached at 727 893-8873 or matus@sptimes.com Comments can be posted on the Times education blog, the Gradebook, at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.