BRADENTON, Fla. — The Miami-Dade County School Board Wednesday agreed to ask voters to approve a $1.2 billion bond issue to make improvements in the south Florida county’s schools.

Before the measure can be placed on an upcoming ballot, it must be approved by the Florida Department of Education.

If ultimately approved by the state and 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 to upgrade technology.

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

About half of the school buildings are more than 40 years old, causing “great inequity between the instructional environment experienced by students attending newer facilities and those enrolled at schools with older buildings,” according to school board documents.

The school district has $161.8 million of outstanding GOs from a previous referendum. Those bonds will mature through 2017.

In 1988, voters authorized $980 million of GOs for major capital improvements. All of those bonds have been issued.

Because current capital needs are considerable, and there are no other resources to pay for those needs, going to the bond market would be timely due to historic low interest rates, officials said.

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 to taxpayers.

If the new bonds are authorized, the district is planning to issue five tranches. The first tranche of $400 million would be sold in 2013.

The district’s GO bonds are rated Aa3 by Moody’s Investors Service and A-plus by Standard & Poor's.

In addition to the GO debt, the Miami-Dade School District has about $118 million of outstanding bonds issued by the State Board of Education as well as $4.5 billion of certificates of participation outstanding though 2038.

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