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Jax Daily Record Thursday, May 10, 201805:06 AM EST

Jacksonville University a step closer to issuing $175 million in bonds

The signature of Gov. Rick Scott is final step before underwriting.
by: David Cawton Associate Editor

Jacksonville University won approvals this week toward issuing $175 million in bonds for campus improvements.

The Higher Educational Facilities Financing Authority adopted a resolution Wednesday allowing JU to issue up to $125 million in bonds to continue expansion projects at the Arlington campus. 

Randy Freebourn, senior vice president of JU Finance and Facilities Management, said Gov. Rick Scott will review the resolution and is expected to sign it in the next two weeks.

“After that, we can have our underwriters go into the market,” he said.

Randy Freebourn

The authority’s approval comes after City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve legislation authorizing the private university to issue revenue bonds not to exceed $50 million. 

The bonds do not constitute a debt or liability to the authority, state or city. As the beneficiary, JU will assume all cost and repayment obligations.

Freebourn told authority board members the school will make interest-only payments on the bond issues for the first three years of a 35-year schedule, deferring the principal to year four. 

“Then through the 30th year we will have the principal become due through the HEFA issue, and then the city of Jacksonville portion will be done years 31 through 35,” he said.

He said the school estimates it will use about $148.8 million out of the $175 million in bonds it is authorized to issue. 

The unrated bonds will be offered in $100,000 denominations and are restricted to qualified institutional buyers on the initial sale. 

Subsequent sales would be limited to qualified institutional buyers and accredited investors or high net-worth individuals. 

Freebourn said the annual debt service is estimated to be $9.281 million. 

In June, university leadership plans to host an “investment day” to showcase the 260-acre campus and answer questions from interested investors.  

The money will go toward financing, reimbursing or refinancing part of the costs to buy, build, renovate and equip the costs of the project; refinancing part of some outstanding debt; paying capitalized interest on the bonds; funding debt service reserves for the bonds, if any; and paying all or part of the costs of issuing the bonds.

The funding is for the 84-year-old institution’s new “Jacksonville University Project,” which includes construction of a 12,000-square-foot, $4 million welcome center between the J. Arthur Howard Administration and J. Henry Gooding buildings. 

A 104,000-square-foot building for the Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences, renovation of existing residence halls, new capital improvement throughout campus and construction of new athletic practice facilities and offices also are included. 

Freebourn said renovations to the dormitories will result in 400 new beds on campus. 

Some of the projects are underway. 

“We had an authorizing resolution by our board back in October,” he said. “We’ll start to see some groundbreaking soon.” 

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