Miami-Dade County commissioners Tuesday began the process of approving $4.24 billion of bonds to finance water and sewer system capital improvements and repairs related to a consent decree.

The commission gave the first approval of an ordinance allowing the bonds to be issued in multiple series over a number of years. They will fund $879 million of projects that comply with a portion of a consent decree with state and federal agencies, $2.7 billion to replace infrastructure more than 50 years old, $377 million in capitalized interest, $254 million for the reserve fund and $43 million for issuance costs. A public hearing on the bond program was scheduled May 14 before the finance committee.

If all the authorized bonds are issued, the average annual debt service is forecast to be $279 million based on several 30-year bond issuances at an average annual interest rate of 6%, according to county materials. Net water and sewer revenues will be the pledged to the bonds.

Some $1.862 billion of water and sewer bonds are currently outstanding. The county has authorized a $400 million commercial paper program, and the revenue bonds will be used to retire the CP.

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