Miami-Dade schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho upped the ante Tuesday for the district’s $1.2 billion bond referendum for public schools.
At a tour highlighting leaks and cracks at Hialeah Senior High, Carvalho promised the work to fix crumbling schools and upgrade technology across the county would be well underway in six to seven years, if voters OK the measure.
“No child or teacher should have to wait for a decade to see their schools be modernized. So, my promise is within six to seven years, in a number of phases, all of the work will be done with a timely release of the funds through the bond,” Carvalho said.
His comments came at the first of several school tours, organized by the political action committee promoting the proposed bond, Building for Tomorrow. Tuesday’s tour featured Hialeah High, which opened in 1953 and needs electrical, air-conditioning, plumbing and other repairs.
Miami-Dade voters will decide in November if they want the Miami-Dade school district to borrow $1.2 billion through bonds and repay the money over 30 years with property taxes.
Carvalho said the bulk of the work could be accomplished quicker by issuing bonds for $200 million for six consecutive years, starting in 2013, instead of every other year as originally proposed.
At the tour, Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez and Miami Springs Mayor Zavier Garcia defended their support of the proposal.
“This is not about raising taxes ... It’s asking the citizens if this is something that they want to do,” said Hernandez, who graduated from Hialeah High and whose daughter attends the school. “In South Florida, you’ve got to do two things: You’ve got to take care of the elderly who built this, and you’ve got to take care of the young ones who are going to be the future.”
Last week, the Hialeah City Council passed a resolution in support of the measure.
John Schuster, spokesman for the school district, later said the superintendent is committed to condensing the timeline, “as long as it doesn’t negatively impact the taxpayer,” which can depend on the economic climate and workflow capacity.
If passed, the new bond program would replace the 1988 bond, which ends in five years. For the first year, 2013, the average homeowner would pay $5 per $100,000 of assessed value for the new program, in addition to the $23 for every $100,000 of assessed value for the existing bond program. For the full term of the new program, a homeowner would pay an average of $27 for every $100,000 of assessed value, up to the maximum of $35.
In the 1988 bond referendum, Hispanic voters rejected the measure by a 5-4 margin.
Carvalho said voters in Hialeah, “the soul of the Cuban community,” are key to passing the new bond.
Carvalho also said he would announce as early as Wednesday members of an advisory committee to oversee the proposed project.
“They will scrutinize the needs list, the budget, the timeline, ensuring fundamentally that a promise made is a promise kept,” he said.