School bond issue on ballot in Miami-Dade County

Voters to decide on $1.2B bond to renovate, rebuild public schools in Miami-Dade

MIAMICutler Ridge Middle School looks like something out of the 1950s because it is. Damage at the school includes peeling paint, rust, rot, and decay.

"This is one of the rooms that was heavily affected after Hurricane Andrew," said Principal Eduardo Alonso.

School officials say Cutler Ridge Middle School is a poster child for the school bond issue on the November 6th ballot in Miami-Dade County.

Voters are asked to approve a $1.2 billion bond over the next 30 years at a general cost of an extra $10 - $20 a year in property tax. Miami-Dade County Public Schools officials have more than 300 pages of what it will pay for in nearly every school.

"Technology upgrades, air conditioning, heating," said Alonso. "The replacement of building one... It's pretty thorough. That list is exactly what we need."

So why haven't some of these schools been renovated in the last 50 years?

"We had huge migrations in Miami-Dade," said Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. "Decisions in previous administrations were actually to improve or increase capacity to house those students rather than address school maintenance issues."

Carvalho launched likely one of the biggest sales pitches of his career to get voter support for the bond to finance what the state no longer will.

"The state made a policy decision to invest over the past two years $50 million into charter school construction rather than the aging inventory of schools across the state," said Carvalho.

An opinion from Coral Gables-based Washington Economic Group concludes the timing is good for the bonds because of low interest rates and favorable construction costs.