City Roles in School Construction
In Florida, school boards are separate from city government. School boards are responsible for building, staffing and operating schools. They have their own taxing power and issue bonds for school construction, totally independent of the city government. The Broward County School Board has county-wide jurisdiction and operates a system with nearly 300,000 students. The rapid growth of the area in the 80's and the continuing growth now has placed a severe strain on their ability to finance and construct needed schools. They are at the limit of their taxing ability and the voters have turned down their requests to issue additional bonds. Recently, the voters overwhelmingly rejected the school board's request for a one percent sales tax to support school construction. Consequently, as the housing boom continues in Pembroke Pines, the available schools will be severely overcrowded. City leaders recognized that action was needed to alleviate this condition and allow development to continue in our city. Two innovative programs were initiated to help relieve the problem.
Builders pay the School Board an impact fee to help fund school construction. However, these funds are paid over a period of time and do not accumulate fast enough, nor are the funds sufficient to meet the immediate needs. Consequently, the city initiated a private/public partnership that brought together the major developers, the school board and the county to institute a special assessment program to provide funds for construction of new schools. This cooperative effort utilized the commitment of future impact funds to back a bond issue. Upon sale of the bonds, the proceeds were turned over to the school board which received bids and began construction immediately. The special assessment is collected by the county on the annual tax bill. The monies received are turned over to the city to pay debt service.
This innovative process has allowed construction of two schools to start immediately. We expect that both will be in operation for the fall term in 1996.
Another unique approach was used by the city to provide additional classroom space. The city financed and constructed a combination middle school, community resource center, dinner theater and recreation facility. The city provides the facility to the school board at an annual rental rate of $1. The board and the city share maintenance responsibility based on the usage and the functions utilizing the various areas. The school board is provided a school for nearly 2,000 middle school students. The city gets the use of a gymnasium, dinner theater, day care center and park and recreation areas -- a "win-win" situation for both the city and the school board.
The city continues this joint use concept by providing park space adjacent to the new schools that are being constructed. This allows the schools to utilize the park facilities during the day and city park patrons have the use of school parking areas during the evening and on weekends.
In the ever more difficult financial climate that exists today, all public agencies must learn to cooperate and to combine facilities for use by their constituents. The Pembroke Pines experience proves that it is not only possible, but absolutely essential, to form partnerships with other public agencies and the private sector.
Contact: Office of the Mayor, (954) 431-4500
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright ©1996, U.S. Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.