Florida School District Abandons Plan to Buy Broadcaster

WXEL was to be acquired for $4.5 million
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PALM BEACH, FLA.: The Palm Beach County School District is backing away from a plan to buy WXEL, a PBS member station in South Florida. The station, along with its FM radio sister, is currently owned by a Catholic university in Miami.

The school district had set aside a $4.5 million reserve to buy the broadcast operation, according to The Palm Beach Post. Other financial needs trumped the acquisition. The school board adopted a 2009-10 budget yesterday that relies on a 10 percent tax increase, the South Florida Sun Sentinelsaid. The new levy ads nearly $8 to every $1,000 of taxable property value, up fro $7.25.

The school district authorized $85,000 last month to hire a firm to negotiate the deal, but the teachers’ union objected. The station was said to be on the market for five years. The Palm Beach district started looking at it after its own educational cable channel got bumped into the 100s on local systems.

“At a time when we’re telling [employees] there’s no money for increases in compensation, any additional benefits, classroom supplies, things they need, I think it sends poor message to them that we’re spending money on a television station that we don’t need,” board member Frank Barbieri, Jr., told the Post.

A local group led by Murray Green--the Community Broadcast Foundation of Palm Beach and the Treasure Coast--is hoping to gain control of the WXEL licenses. Green was founding vice president and general manager of WFLX-TV in West Palm Beach from 1982 through 1998, according to his bio. He was also chairman of the Fox affiliate board of governors and a member of the Florida Association of Broadcasters.