Key Biscayne council members voted unanimously on Tuesday to borrow $23 million to help pay for school improvements for the island’s children.
The money will be disbursed to the village over the course of three stages, to coincide with the project’s three main stages.
The village expects to pay the first sum, $5.5 million, by October. The first project will include the commissioning of design professionals and contractors, and renovations to the Key Biscayne K-8 Center and recreational fields.
The second sum, $14 million, will be used to pay for the construction of new high school facilities next to MAST Academy on neighboring Virginia Key. The village expects to pay that $14 million by October 2013.
The third sum, $2.5 million, will be used to complete the recreational fields and for furniture, light fixtures and other equipment. The village expects to pay that sum by November 2014.
According to Village Manager John Gilbert, one of the components of the first project has already started. The Miami-Dade School Board has already begun placing temporary classroom portables at the MAST Academy site in order to alleviate over-population at the K-8 Center.
“If everything goes without hiccups and bubbles, that’s what we’re going for,” Gilbert said.
The village’s financial advisor, Lourdes Abadin, has not yet made a recommendation to the Village regarding the repayment of the bonds.
“Sometime in late August we will begin shopping with the banks to find the best possible loan program to be presented to council sometime in late September, after the budget hearings,” Gilbert said. “Rates change pretty quickly.”
Once the financing plan is put together, it will be presented to the Village Council.
“Every component of this financing plan will be presented to our Village Council for their approval first, so the community will know from the beginning exactly how much this will cost,” Gilbert said. “We will be setting aside a set amount of money yearly in our capital improvement plan to pay for this amount of money yearly, over a 30-year payment period.”
Mayor Frank Caplan said he was delighted with the plan.
“We’ve had insurmountable problems, going on 30 years, with the condition of our school and its overcrowding and the absence of a good high school option,” Caplan said. “This will help us improve those situations.”
Despite the high costs to improve school options for residents of the key, Gilbert does not expect a property-tax increase as a result of the upcoming projects.
“There is no intent to raise taxes currently,” Gilbert said. “I can’t promise what will happen in year 28 or 29 of the payment period, but in the funding recommendation, there will be no reason to raise taxes here in the community for the school”
The deal provides that the village will make all payments for the first eight years, while payments may be shared with the school district after that that, if the district has the money, Gilbert said.
Caplan hopes the project will help the public school system and the lack of options near the island.
“The public schools just haven’t worked for too many of our families, too many of our families opt out and try to create other better options,” Caplan said. “Now, families that wish to stay in the public school system can feel like they have a better option to do so.”