The Miami-Dade School Board last week gave final approval to placing a referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot to ask voters for approval to issue $1.2 billion of bonds for its South Florida schools.

The approval came after the referendum was OK'd by the Florida Department of Education. If ultimately approved by voters, the nation's fourth-largest school district would use proceeds of $1.2 billion of general obligation bonds to make system-wide infrastructure improvements and upgrade technology.

The district, whose boundaries match those of Miami-Dade County, consists of 450 schools and vocational centers serving 349,945 students and 42,189 full- and part-time employees.

District officials have said that about half of the school buildings are more than 40 years old, which has caused "great inequity between the instructional environment experienced by students attending newer facilities and those enrolled at schools with older buildings."

The district has $161.8 million of outstanding GOs from a previous referendum that will mature through 2017. Voters authorized $980 million of GOs for major capital improvements in 1988. All of those bonds have been issued.

As the 1988 bonds mature, the debt will be replaced with bonds from the new authorization, if approved, a school official said, noting there will be a minimal impact on taxpayers. The district's GO bonds are rated Aa3 by Moody's Investors Service and A-plus by Standard & Poor's.

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