FAMU Battles Financial Woes - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

Settling into a new job is hard enough, but Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University President James Ammons, who began on July 2, is also contending with negative publicity about financial misdeeds at the school. An operational audit published by the Florida auditor general found that of the school’s $394.6 million annual budget, more than $39 million was unaccounted for or improperly recorded. The news solicited legislative concern for the 119-year-old historically black public university.

In response, the Florida Board of Governors created the Task Force on FAMU Finance and Operational Control Issues. The legislature approved a $1 million appropriation ($2 million less than the task force requested) to help fix FAMU’s finances. “We are working really hard with the task force to put all of the appropriate personnel in place to restore the accountability and fiscal integrity of FAMU,” says Ammons.

The audit concluded that “significant turnover in key positions and understaffing of certain areas of the University’s business operations may have contributed to the need to use consultants in preparing the financial statements.” According to the audit, the university’s consulting services costs increased from $874,362 for the 2002–03 fiscal year to $10.2 million for the 2005–06 fiscal year, including $670,341 paid to consulting services related to its financial aid office and $1.9 million for accounting and administrative services.

The audit was compounded by earlier news that improper financial reporting at the university created a cash flow shortfall that led to late payments for more than 600 workers at FAMU between May 2006 and February 2007. Some student workers, adjunct faculty, and staff went months before being recompensed. “We will be faced with determining what program of work is realistic given the limited amount of appropriations,” says Lynn Pappas, chair of the FAMU task force.

Contrary to numerous media reports, the Florida legislature has not voted to deny funding to the school nor has a criminal investigation been sought, says Sen. Alfred Lawson. Alums Castell Bryant, the former interim president, and Lawson agree that the legislature would not stop funding the state’s third-oldest institution for higher learning. “FAMU annually generates a $3.7 billion financial impact on the state of Florida,” says Bryant.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.

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