Deegan’s plan for capital projects includes millions for Jaguars stadium

Deegan’s plan for capital projects includes millions for Jaguars stadium

Deegan’s plan for capital projects includes millions for Jaguars stadium

Mayor Donna Deegan’s team has unveiled more than $431 million in proposed capital projects for next year’s budget, which includes the city’s first-year investment in a renovated EverBank Stadium but closes out 179 previously listed projects.

The city’s budget won’t be as high as in recent years due to a multitude of factors, officials said Tuesday: commitments to new collective bargaining agreements, the cessation of federal American Rescue Plan dollars and lower-than-expected property taxes.

Still, the capital improvements plan includes millions for road repairs, libraries, parks and drainage improvements throughout the county.

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Deegan will submit the proposal with the operating budget on July 15. Preliminary documents released this week could still change, but Anna Brosche, the city’s finance director, said any added projects would take money away from other areas.

Last year, Deegan didn’t have as clear an opportunity to put his stamp on the budget because of a tight deadline from when he took office on July 1 until he presented the budget two weeks later.

“We’re going to have a very, very tight budget year, but that’s the job, right?” Deegan said in an interview before the budget review committee meeting. “You guys decide the priorities. But at the same time, like any business, you have to spend money to make money, and I think where we are here downtown, on the Eastside, and some of the things we’ve set out to invest in, like affordable housing, I think those are the things that are going to help us light that fire.”

Separate draft capital improvement lists include more than $46 million for solid waste improvements and more than $11 million for stormwater improvement projects.

Certain investments increased in the proposal, such as the city’s contributions to capital improvements at UF Health, which rose from $20 million last year to $38 million.

But other potential expenses, largely hypothetical, were ruled out in order to help boost the city’s credit rating.

The capital improvement plan is required to explain the city’s five-year project plan, but typically has a “beyond five years” category to show potential projects. Brosche, the former City Council president, said the numbers served no practical purpose and were almost always pushed further back each year, but still counted against the credit rating.

So the projects were not included next year, meaning some ideas already on the list, such as a new county jail, are not counted.

The Times-Union requested a list of projects excluded from the plan but did not receive a copy by press time. The draft said more than $5.6 million had been saved.

$150 million for stadium renovations

Next year’s capital improvement plan will have a section dedicated specifically to public space improvement projects in the city. The draft agreement shows that more than $175 million will be funded entirely from debt management funds in the first year.

The biggest expense comes from the city’s first installments for EverBank Stadium renovations, which will ultimately total more than $771 million, not including more than $3 million earmarked for parking lot repaving and pipe cleaning in fiscal year 2027-28.

The city will pay $150 million in the first year, followed by another $150 million, $250 million and more than $221 million over the next three years.

Other major expenditures to be made on the upcoming stadium include $11.3 million for the baseball field, as well as $3 million to replace the ice plant and $3 million to replace the bathrooms at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

The historic Ritz Theatre would receive $500,000 for renovations and more than $168,000 for building system improvements next year, followed by $1.16 million over three years for system and security improvements.

77 projects move to Better Jacksonville Plan

When Mayor Lenny Curry was in office, there was talk at City Hall of ending the Better Jacksonville Plan’s half-cent sales tax early. Voters approved the tax in 2000 to allow funds to go toward road and infrastructure improvements, environmental preservation, specific economic development or public facilities, and the tax was set to end at the end of 2030.

The borrowed money would have covered the remaining projects that were no longer being funded by the levy. Instead, the administration opted to maintain the BJP levy until its original end date (leaving the funding in place) and freeing up borrowing capacity enough to borrow the funds needed for the EverBank Stadium renovation.

The administration added another 77 projects that will be covered by the tax next year, ultimately saving more than $327 million in debt, according to the draft proposal.

Millions for downtown parks

The proposal continues the city’s multi-year goal of funding the revitalization of downtown parks.

Overall, the 2024-25 proposal would fund more than $36 million in park improvements countywide, including $6 million for Riverfront Plaza, $5 million for Shipyards West Park and $1 million for James Weldon Johnson Park.

The city also allocated more than $13 million for an expansion of the Southbank Riverwalk and waterfront.

A portion of the Jaguars’ contribution to the community benefits agreement part of the stadium deal could go toward maintaining downtown parks over the 30-year lease period, but specific funds were not outlined in the plan.