Council introduces bill to partially fund possible UF Health and Financial Technology Graduate Education Center

The legislation would authorize a $20 million commitment in 2023 and $15 million each of the next two years.

The University of Florida and the city announced Feb. 7 plans to explore a new graduate campus in Jacksonville focused on medicine, business and engineering.
The University of Florida and the city announced Feb. 7 plans to explore a new graduate campus in Jacksonville focused on medicine, business and engineering.
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City Council introduced legislation Feb. 14 that could lead to $50 million in financing for a proposal to bring what the bill calls a University of Florida Health and Financial Technology Graduate Education Center to Jacksonville. 

Ordinance 2023-0114 would authorize the city to borrow $20 million in short-term or bond debt this year to help pay for capital expenses related to the possible UF expansion. The legislation also “anticipates” an additional $30 million split over fiscal years 2024 and 2025. 

Council President Terrance Freeman filed the bill at the request of Mayor Lenny Curry. 

The legislation comes one week after Curry stood with UF President Ben Sasse and university Board of Trustees Chair Mori Hosseini during a City Hall news conference to announce a public-private partnership to “explore opportunities” for a health care and financial technology graduate campus Downtown.

The bill provides no information about where the graduate center would be located Downtown, how long it may take to develop, or if the state might help fund the project.

The terms say the city funding will be issued to UF as a grant that can be used to pay for capital expenses including, but not limited to, due diligence, studies, planning, design and other soft costs.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry speaks at a news conference announcing plans the city and the University of Florida to explore a new $100 million graduate campus in Jacksonville.
Photo by Mike Mendenhall

Curry said Feb. 7 that UF and the city also would look for an additional $50 million from the private sector. According to Curry, UF Board of Trustees appointee Patrick Zalupski will lead that fundraising effort.

UF would be responsible for ensuring federal, state or local permits are obtained before starting any work.

The bill amends the city’s FY 2022-23 budget and will require a two-thirds vote, or 13 of 19 Council members, to pass.

UF will have to submit an audited annual report after spending the city grant money detailing actual expenditures made of both grant funds and all other funds spent on the project, according to the term sheet.

The terms say the city also will be able to review and approve the sources and uses for all the funds for the project before dispersing the money annually.

Jacksonville City Council member Matt Carlucci.

Before the Feb. 14 meeting, Council member Matt Carlucci said he has asked the Council Auditor’s Office when it will analyze the legislation’s financial review and return on investment.

According to Carlucci, the auditor’s office said it did not have enough information to complete the financial review, but will analyze the investment’s benefits to Jacksonville taxpayers. 

Carlucci said he also needs to know more about the project to offer an opinion, and whether the city should take on debt to support the UF center.

“I’m for anything that’s good for Jacksonville. This may be that,” Carlucci said. 

“The city is financially capable of doing it, but I’m not really sure what I’m looking at yet. I’m open to any serious proposal as long as it gets a good look from our Council auditors.” 

The deal terms include a provision that allows city administrative staff and Council auditors to audit payment records and supporting documentation for expenditures reimbursed under the city agreement. 

City Director of Public Affairs Katie Wiles said Feb. 7 that officials may ask for state money in addition to the $100 million investment from the city, Northeast Florida companies and private donors.

During the announcement, the mayor called the possible UF Jacksonville expansion a “generational project.” 

Although officials have not identified a site or how much land would be needed, the location could have a connection to the northern border of Downtown and Springfield. 

A Feb. 2 letter to UF Vice President Thomas Mitchell from JEA Managing Director and CEO Jay Stowe says the utility would commit $10 million in in-kind services, including access to a trail to the project through the Main Street Water Plant and Laboratory parcel through a purchase/lease/easement.

“It is our intent to support this project as it supports downtown revitalization, complemented with the Hogan’s Creek revitalization and Emerald Trail projects,” Stowe wrote.

That in-kind investment includes:

• Access to the trail through the Main Street Water Plant and Laboratory parcel through a purchase/lease/easement.

• Within the JEA footprint, all infrastructure and beautification work, including the use of the conservation building.

• Beyond the JEA footprint, additional beautification in JEA rights of way.

Curry said a UF site selection committee would make a final decision.