The Jacksonville City Council has agreed to provide $2.5 million to help Jacksonville University fund the creation of its new downtown law school.
The Council voted 17 to 1 to enact Ordinance 2022-0317 which includes half of the $5 million Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration committed to the JU College of Law in a public announcement in February.
In total, the bill reallocates $8 million for public incentives to private businesses and organizations previously approved by Council using money the city saved by refinancing municipal bonds at a lower interest rate.
JU President Tim Cost told the council’s finance committee on May 17 that JU was pursuing “aggressive” private fundraising for the college and that the city’s investment would help cover initial operating expenses.
Cost said JU will have the first newly created college of law in the United States in 22 years.
“American universities don’t embrace the idea of new colleges very often, rarely and not lightly,” Cost said.
“The difficulty is, according to the American Bar Association, whether you have one student or you have 100 students, you have to be fully prepared to go,” Cost said.
The bill doesn’t say how the city will fund the second $2.5 million grant, but the administration will release its budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year in July.
Cost said the college will have 20 students in its founding year chosen from more than 275 applications.
Cost said JU was already talking with Downtown Investment Authority CEO Lori Boyer about possible locations for the campus after her first two years at 76 S. Laura St. in the VyStar Tower.
When the college is at full capacity, JU expects 400 to 450 students, staff and faculty to seek housing downtown.
Tuition, listed on ju.edu/law, is $36,000 per year for three years. The website also states that 100% of the inaugural class will receive a merit scholarship of $7,200 to $14,400.
Senior Vice President of Economic Development Margaret Dees said the university conducted a feasibility study in 2019 before establishing the law school.
Jacksonville lost its only law school, the Florida Coastal School of Law, in August 2021 after the U.S. Department of Education revoked the private, for-profit school’s access to the Title IV student loan program.
The bill also makes funds available for a $1 million airline network grant for Breeze Aviation Group Inc. to market its recently announced service from Jacksonville International Airport.
The Council voted 18 to 1 to enact a separate bill, Order 2022-0318, to approve the grant.
Breeze Airways announced plans in April to launch nonstop service from Jacksonville to Westchester Airport in northern New York starting June 30.
This followed a press conference in March when the airline announced it would roll out nonstop service from Jacksonville to seven cities from May 19 to August 5, including Las Vegas.
The airline began service in May 2021, primarily to the eastern and southeastern United States. The company says the airline is expanding across the United States with 86 routes between 29 cities in 18 states.
The $8 million reappropriation bill also includes:
• $1.5 million to the Duval County Elections Office Supervisor for unbudgeted election costs in fiscal year 2021-22.
• $975,000 to the Florida Theater for repairs and maintenance of elevators and other capital assets.
• $669,581 for future payments of previously approved Downtown Preservation and Revitalization Program loans to JWB Real Estate Capital LLC for renovations and rehabilitation of the Thomas V. Porter House.
• $450,000 to extend and improve Catherine Street and adjacent areas to access the relocated Jacksonville Fire Museum downtown.
• $330,419 to the Board Special Reserve Contingency Fund for future allocation by the Board, including:
• $300,000 for a retention basin safety campaign.
• $250,000 for recycling education.
• $25,000 to the Springfield Preservation and Revitalization Council Inc.
There was no debate on the bills, but Council Member Danny Becton voted against both. At the finance committee meeting, Becton told Cost and Council members that he supported JU ownership but thought the million dollars for Breeze Airways should come from the Tourism Development Council budget.
His amendment to change this funding did not win support.
Council Member Ron Salem abstained in the vote on Order 2022-0317 due to his personal investment in JWB Real Estate Capital.
Associate Editor Max Marbut contributed to this report.
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