Palm Coast will spend $2.5 million to support the expansion of Jacksonville University to Palm Coast, but the decision to spend city money encountered some opposition on the City Council.
The council held two votes on different aspects of the financial arrangement between the city and the university, voting 4-1, with Councilman Ed Danko dissenting, to approve a Community Redevelopment Agency budget that includes an allocation for the Jacksonville University project, and then 3-2, with Danko and Councilman Victor Barbosa dissenting, to approve a city budget amendment that includes an allocation for the project.
“I welcome your university here — you’re more than invited to come join us — however, I do have problems with spending more than 2.5 million of our taxpayers dollars,” Danko said. “That’s going to mean tax increases for us, sooner or later.”
He noted that many local businesses have lost revenue, and residents have lost jobs, as a result of the pandemic.
“You’re more than welcome to spend your own money and come here, but I am opposed to using the taxpayers’ money,” Danko said.
The proposed Jacksonville University program would center on health care education programs, mostly as the graduate level.
It would be near, but not part of, the proposed UNF MedNexus health care training campus proposed for Town Center.
City Manager Matt Morton said that the city will still have general fund reserves of over 20%, even with the expenditure, and that the Jacksonville University proposal would help shift the tax burden in the city away from ad valorem.
“This is a lifetime opportunity for us here in Palm Coast, “ Councilman Eddie Branquinho said after Jacksonville University representatives presented their proposal. “Any penny invested on you, it’s a good penny.”
Councilman Nick Klufas said he was excited about the university’s move to Palm Coast because it would create more opportunities for local young people.
Mayor Milissa Holland agreed, and noted that the Flagler County School District already has a flagship program focusing on health care education.
The Jacksonville University proposal, she said, will offer opportunities for those students.
“The variety of jobs that this will offer, not only to our residents but to the region … this is a regional opportunity,” Holland said. “Obviously, we’re very proud Palm Coast would be at the center of it.”