Tight Budget Threatens Florida Campus Security Upgrades

FLORIDA – In the aftermath of Virginia Tech, Florida’s colleges and universities have spent the last three months frantically looking for ways to improve campus security, but the state budget may put a damper on their goals.

Three days after Seung-Hui Cho conducted his April 16 shooting rampage, the Florida Board of Governors held a conference call to ask the state legislature for security funding. The Board requested $1.5 million for communications equipment and $2 million for police officers and mental health counselors. Meanwhile the community college system asked the legislature to help pay for $42.6 million security upgrades it believes are necessary to keep its campuses safe.

So far the government has approved none of these requests. Lower-than-projected property tax collections this year pulled the state’s purse strings even tighter.

But the schools remain undaunted. Florida Atlantic University plans to install a $100,000 emergency message system and is currently looking for bidders to install a $93,000 audio alert system. Lynn University in Boca Raton is setting up a voice-activated alert system while searching for a vendor to install an emergency text messaging system. Palm Beach Atlantic University is working on an alert system that would notify students via cell phone, computer or cable television.

Meanwhile, all of the universities have examined their emergency response plans. Palm Beach Community College made revising their procedure for closing campuses one of its first priorities, so that when funding does become available, the school will have a plan in place.

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