Regardless of what one might think about the $1.2-billion bond referendum for updating public schools, it is important that the Miami-Dade County School Board take all the appropriate steps to ensure that what voters are being promised is accounted for in a fair and transparent manner.
Should voters approve the bond issue, it will not be the school district’s choice whether to provide adequate oversight — it will be its absolute responsibility and moral obligation. That is why I have been collaborating with Superintendent Alberto Carvalho to develop a strong oversight proposal.
Independent oversight committees have been an integral part of the success of countless surtax initiatives for education across the state and the country. In recent years, school districts in Orange and Palm Beach counties have put before the voters proposals for half-penny sales taxes to help fund school construction, maintenance and technology upgrades. Both created strong oversight boards charged with strictly scrutinizing the use of these extra taxpayer dollars.
When it comes to accountability, oversight on the school-bond issue is as important as the results.
In Palm Beach County, the Independent Sales Surtax Oversight Committee was tasked with the review and approval of all project changes requested by the school district.
As a representative of the residents of this community, I have worked closely with the superintendent to ensure the timely and efficient creation of an independent oversight committee to monitor the expenditure of revenue generated from the bonds — should voters approve the proposal. We are both strongly committed to making sure adequate checks and balances are in place to monitor the completion of projects on the proposed work plan, as well as the proper expenditure of funds.
The superintendent and I also recognize the importance of ensuring that strong conflict-of-interest provisions are in place to prevent any conflict that may put in question the integrity of the committee.
We may not have agreed on all the details, but at the end of the day, both of us have transparency as our ultimate goal. That is why last week I agreed to merge my original proposal for the creation of an oversight committee with his.
I am comfortable with moving forward to create the oversight committee as currently presented.
We should not allow ourselves to get bogged down or stalled. The voters need transparency in government — and they need it now.
Renier Diaz de la Portilla, member, Miami-Dade School Board, Miami