Governor Vetoes Funding For PHCC’s Wesley Chapel Campus
Plans for building a new local campus for Pasco-Hernando Community College (PHCC) were put on hold, at least for the foreseeable future, after Fla. Gov. Rick Scott cut funding for the project from the 2011-12 state budget.
PHCC officials had hoped to break ground on the new campus this summer, on 60 acres of land off S.R. 56 in the Wiregrass Ranch development in Wesley Chapel (which was donated to the college by the Porter family for that purpose), and to open the facility to its first class of students by January 2014.
The college already had received more than $45 million in installments from the state for the new campus over the past five years, and was scheduled to receive the final $6.9 million in this year’s state budget. That amount was part of a package of college construction projects across Florida totaling more than $100 million.
Scott, however, vetoed the entire package when he signed the state’s $69.1-billion budget last week. That final total reflected a record-high total of cuts from the budget passed by the state legislature, equalling more than $615 million.
A statement issued by PHCC officials reflected their disappointment with Scott’s action.
“The residents of Pasco County can rest assured that this project will move forward, though the completion may be delayed,” the statement says. “We will continue to pursue this funding in future years and thank the Pasco County legislative delegation for their support and efforts this year.”
The last part was a nod to District 61 State Rep. Will Weatherford (RWesley Chapel), who championed the PHCC project and helped get the funding included in the budget. Not everyone supported the project, however. Florida TaxWatch, which scans the state budget for what it deems to be unnecessary expenditures, had labeled the PHCC funding as one of its “turkeys” for this year, and had urged the governor to veto it.
Scott, meanwhile, did leave funding in place for roadway improvements to Wiregrass Ranch Blvd., which will eventually be the main thoroughfare within the 5,000-acre development. That funding is believed to be part of the incentive package offered to officials at Raymond James Financial, who recently signed a letter of intent to purchase property in Wiregrass for a new office facility there.
That new facility — along with the Shops at Wiregrass mall, the new hospital currently being built by the Adventist Health System and University Community Hospital and the PHCC campus — are all part of the Porter family’s overall plan for developing the former ranch property over the next few years, with the goal of eventually making it into one of Pasco County's premiere communities.