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Liu: N.Y.C. Could Save $100M Through GO Refunding

New York City could realize $100 million in savings from next week’s $800 million general obligation refunding bond sale, Comptroller John Liu said Thursday.

In his state of the city address at the City College of New York main campus in Harlem, Liu said the bureau of public finance, with deputy comptroller Carol Kostik running point, has already saved the city $566 million in multiple refinancings of the city’s debt the past two years.

“That includes GO, TFA and Water,” said Kostik after the speech, citing of 16 refundings for present-value savings across the general obligation, Transitional Finance Authority, and New York City Municipal Water Finance credits in 2010 and 2011.

Liu, speaking at Aaron Davis Hall, also proposed taking advantage of low interest rates to accelerate capital construction projects. “Right now, interest rates are at historical lows, which makes borrowing less expensive,” he said, “and since we’re going to borrow that money over the next few years, why not do some of it sooner?”

The city’s current budget includes a $35 billion, four-year capital plan for infrastructure projects.

Liu challenged city agencies to identify $2 billion of accelerated spending on construction projects over the next two years. “My public finance folks stand ready to work on raising the necessary funds in the capital markets,” he said. Deputy comptroller and chief investment officer Larry Schloss will coordinate the effort.

The comptroller also called for doubling to $2 billion economically targeted investments by New York City pension funds, and announced initiatives for curbing waste, including the establishment of a system to monitor billions of dollars spent on subcontractors annually.

Liu projects slow but steady growth in the next two years, “barring catastrophes in Europe or in Washington.” He warned of several red flags that loom as the city rebounds from the financial crisis. They include the struggles of the financial industry, $1.2 trillion in looming budget cuts from Washington, the European debt crisis, and an economic divide between rich and poor.

Liu, a former city councilman from Queens and possible mayoral candidate in 2013, did not discuss the ongoing federal investigation of his campaign finances, nor did he meet with the media after the event, which included Chinese lion dancers and gospel singers.

On Tuesday, the city will begin a two-day retail order period in advance of its negotiated sale of tax-exempt, fixed rate refunding Series 2012 E and F bonds. They will mature through 2034.

Moody’s Investors Service rates the city’s GO bonds Aa2, while Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s assign AA ratings.

Book-running senior manager Morgan Stanley will lead the sale, with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citi, JPMorgan and Siebert Brandford Shank & Co. as co-senior managers.

Sidley Austin LLP is bond counsel and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP is special disclosure counsel. Hawkins Delafield & Wood LLP represents the underwriters.

As of Jan. 31, the city had $41.28 billion of outstanding GOs.

In its last GO offering, the city sold $739 million of taxable and tax-exempt new money and reoffered bonds in October. It featured $529 million in tax-exempt new money, a reoffering of $145 million in variable-rate demand, and $65 million in taxable fixed-rate new money. New York received about $64 million of retail orders for the fixed-rate tax-exempt bonds during a two-day retail period.

Yields on the new-money bonds ranged from 1.67% in 2017 to 4.125% in 2036. Yields on the reoffered bonds ranged from 0.47% in 2013 to 3.04% in 2023.

Also this month, the New York City Housing Development Corp. plans a $65 million new-money sale of fixed-rate, tax-exempt and taxable bonds for student housing. In March, the TFA is scheduled to sell $600 million in building aid revenue bonds, according to state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office.

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