FORT LAUDERDALE — The School Board of Broward County on Monday unanimously approved proposals for an $800 million General Obligation Bond which will come before voters in an education bond referendum on the Nov. 4 mid-term ballot. If the measure is approved, the owner of a home with an assessed value of $250,000 would pay 14 cents a day towards the loan or $50 per year, the board says.
The school board acted after School Superintendent Robert W. Runcie made an impassioned appeal to board members for their support, arguing that “our students deserve better.”
“Now is the time for us to make smart investments in our students,” Runcie said. “These dollars will allow us to make investment in safety, music and athletics, renovations and technology (SMART) because SMART investments will lead to smart students.”
A school district statement said more than 40 community members, parents, students, business leaders and elected officials attending the board meeting spoke in support of the bond. They “cited facilities and technology needs that far outweigh the district’s current funding capacity.”
A fact sheet from the district does not specify exactly what projects will be funded by the bond, explaining, “We are conducting a comprehensive needs assessment of all schools and facilities.”
The district also said it will create an “Independent Community Oversight Committee” in an effort to “build and strengthen trust with our community and ensure integrity, transparency and accountability throughout the process.”
Its responsibility will be “to review and report on all bond fund expenditures concerning whether the expenditures were made consistent with the purposes for which they were authorized.”
But there is no indication that the proposed oversight committee will have veto powers to be exercised if it finds that the funds are not used as intended.
The district moved to win board approval for the referendum in the face of cuts in state funding in 2008 and 2009.
“Additionally, from 2012-14, the state has provided zero state funding for capital projects,” the district said. “The decline in taxable property values further compounded the problem equating to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars for priority capital projects including critical school facilities’ needs, particularly in the areas of classroom technology, technology infrastructure, safety and security upgrades.”
The proceeds from the bond would be used for such capital projects and not on operating costs.
The district says every school will get some of the money for “instructional technology upgrades and technology infrastructure.”
A series of forums will be held with parents, students and the community as a whole starting in August to review the needs assessment report in the context of the specific needs of each school.
Broward County Public Schools is the largest fully accredited K-12 and adult school district in the nation, the sixth largest school system in the country and the second largest in Florida, after Miami-Dade.
The district caters to more than 260,000 students and about 175,000 adult students in 229 schools and education centers and 94 charter schools.
The student population is drawn from 204 different countries, with students speaking 130 languages.