FAU claims it’ll make $2 million payment on Jupiter building

Chris Persaud

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In July, it seemed uncertain whether or not the university would make a $2 million payment to Palm Beach County on time. Now, according to FAU’s top financial officer, it’ll definitely happen.

In 2005, Palm Beach County spent $13 million to construct a lab building on FAU’s Jupiter campus. In exchange, the university agreed to pay back $12 million — $2 million each year, starting Dec. 1, 2009. The money would come from annual state grants.

Previously, the UP reported that this year’s grant – called Public Education Capital Outlays (PECO) – was vetoed by Governor Rick Scott. PECO funds state schools’ construction and building and equipment maintenance.

Dennis Crudele, FAU’s VP for Financial Affairs, told the UP in an email that the university will make its payment by the end of the year. The money would come from “available non-academic funds.” The UP asked Crudele for a specific source, and an FAU spokesperson replied, “the specific area of FAU’s budget that will be used for the payment of the facility has not yet been determined; however, I can confirm that it will not affect the academic side of the university.”

The 2005 agreement was between the county, FAU and Scripps Research Institute. Scripps will occupy the building until the end of 2014, when FAU is expected to pay off its debt to the county. The money, as the agreement said, would come from annual PECO grants. Prior to 2011, the state consistently gave PECO money to FAU.

“No one could’ve predicted it,” Former FAU VPFA Ken Jessel said about Gov. Scott’s veto. Jessell was VPFA at the time the county-university-Scripps agreement was drafted.

According to Crudele and Jessel, the purpose of the agreement was to help Jupiter’s economic development and collaboration between FAU and Scripps. This fall, the two institutions partnered to offer FAU students a PhD program from Scripps’ Kellogg School of Science.

During the process to approve the construction funding agreement, then-University President Frank Brogan and then-University Architect Robert Friedman supported it. Friedman said FAU could save $7 million on the deal during an Aug. 10. 2005 Board of Trustees meeting. The UP attempted to contact Friedman multiple times through phone and email, but he returned no messages. Friedman is now a Jupiter councilman. Brogan is chancellor of the State University System’s Board of Governors.

The UP will keep you updated as more information becomes available.