Miami-Dade Schools

Miami-Dade schools bond issue timeline: wireless and playgrounds first

 

The first signs of spending of a $1.2 billion capital bond issue by Miami-Dade County Public Schools will come in the form of technological advances and elementary school playgrounds.

dsmiley@MiamiHerald.com

UPDATE 1/21: The Miami-Dade school district has released the proposed project timeline. See attachment at left.

New wireless networks will start popping up throughout schools in Miami-Dade County this year. So will shiny playgrounds at elementary schools.

And, soon enough, security fencing, improved surveillance technology and early warning devices for emergency situations.

Following voters’ November approval of a $1.2 billion bond referendum, Miami-Dade County Public Schools for the first time revealed a seven-year timeline Thursday for when it will issue its bonds, and released some details about how the money will be spent.

The money, borrowed from bond investors, would be repaid with property taxes over 30 years.

“We know it has to touch every single school,” Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said.

The plan detailed Thursday calls for the district to pursue some 140 smaller projects costing up to $2 million in the first two years, using companies already under contract to speed up the process. The first projects will be related to updating dilapidated playgrounds, improving technology, renovating facilities and removing portables.

Minority-owned and small businesses will get a crack at contracts, too.

Another 160-plus projects costing up to $10 million and more will break ground during the latter five years.

Capital projects will also include the replacement of buildings, and in some cases, combining facilities inside a school or even creating one school out of two nearby campuses. There is an expectation that some of the projects will beef up security measures - an issue that may come up when Carvalho and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez meet Friday with chiefs of police from around the county to talk about youth violence.

The district expects to issue the bonds in $200 million increments starting next year and ending in 2021 and space out construction evenly.

“If we roll out too much work at once, this could adversely impact us,” said Chief Facilities Officer Jaime Torrens. “The cost of design services could be inflated artificially by putting too much work on the market all at once.”

Of the money spent, Torrens said $750 million will go to renovations, $350 million will go toward replacing buildings, and another $100 million will be earmarked for technology improvements, such as establishing wireless connectivity at all schools.

As for which schools will see construction and improvements when, the district knows but isn’t yet saying.

Torrens said Thursday the district has established a work schedule for schools by each board member’s district, but he declined to release the information until a master list could be compiled and distributed to School Board members. He said the list should be released Friday.

As for project costs, Carvalho said last week that the district will not outline specific prices for each project because contractors will then bid to the budget.

“It would work against us,” he said, “to basically declare that’s how much we want to spend on that project.”

Carvalho also talked about the ways in which the district will spend its money differently than it did after its last bond issue in 1988, when there were massive delays and wasted millions.

Among the differences:

• A private management company tasked with overseeing bond-funded projects won’t have autonomy, and will report to the superintendent and School Board. Eight companies have responded to a district request for qualifications.

• A 25-member oversight board appointed by School Board members and the superintendent will oversee the program and ensure community involvement.

• The district will establish weekly progress reports for projects and place information online. They are also developing an app that will allow members of the community to track progress in their neighborhoods.

“We can not in any way,” Carvalho said, “squander the good will and the trust people have put in us.”

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