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Recovery Money Sought For Bay County Schools

Empty classroom with chalkboard on wall
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Bay County schools would get $4 million for teacher and staff costs, as lawmakers file proposals to help areas of the Panhandle that continue to recover from last year’s Hurricane Michael. 

Rep. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, has filed bills requesting more than $10 million for storm recovery and preparation, including the proposal (HB 4793) for the school district.

“We believe that students will return once the housing is rebuilt but, in the meantime, we need to secure funding to continue to provide stable employment for our faculty, staff, and administrators,” Trumbull wrote in his proposal.

Trumbull is also asking for $2 million for Lynn Haven stormwater improvements (HB 4777); $1.1 million for wastewater facilities in Bay County (HB 4785); $1.29 million to cover tuition and fees lost by Gulf Coast State College because of the hurricane (HB 4715); and $618,000 to help return obstetrics services to Sacred Heart Bay Hospital (HB 4795).

“Before Hurricane Michael, Sacred Heart Bay was delivering 300 babies a year and the hurricane demolished the towers where the OB unit was located,” Trumbull wrote in the proposal. “The rebuilding plans do not currently include bringing the OB unit back to the hospital. With only one other hospital delivering babies in the county, the community feels another provider is needed.”

The bills are filed for the 2020 legislative session, which begins Jan. 14. Rep. Brad Drake, R-Eucheeanna, has requested more than $65 million for storm-battered communities in his Northwest Florida district.

Drake’s largest request is $60 million for a 200,000-square-foot commerce center in Washington County (HB 4685). Rep. Jason Shoaf, a Port St. Joe Republican whose district sustained major damage in Michael, has proposed up to $50 million in measures related to post-storm efforts, including $24.2 million to build classrooms and other school facilities in Calhoun County (HB 2987) and $1.5 million for an emergency operations center in Franklin County (HB 2977).