Bridgeport to sell $152 million amid mayoral primary furor

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Bridgeport, Connecticut, immersed in allegations of mayoral primary voter fraud, is planning a $152 million general obligation bond sale Thursday with about 75% of proceeds to partially fund a public pension plan.

Raymond James is senior manager.

About $116.6 million in taxable Series 2019C bonds will go toward Public Safety Pension Plan A for fire and police personnel, bond documents indicate. The city has also scheduled two refundings, a $22.2 million taxable Series 2019D, and a $13.1 million tax-exempt Series 2019E, according to the preliminary official statement.

According to Janney Capital Markets, more than 25% of this week's expected $10 billion of bonds on the muni primary schedule are taxable, up sharply from the 11.7% taxable share of new issuance in the first three quarters.

The federal government's December 2017 restrictions on the use of tax-free bonds for advance refundings have dovetailed with recent cyclical low interest rates to encourage use of taxables, Janney said.

Moody’s Investors Service rates Bridgeport's bonds Baa1. Fitch Ratings and S&P Global ratings assign A ratings. All three assign stable outlooks. Closing is scheduled for Oct. 29.

Moody’s called Bridgeport’s long-term liabilities outsized for its rating category, saying they will “continue to limit operating flexibility given slow amortization of principal.” With about 144,000 residents, Bridgeport is Connecticut's most-populous city.

A lawsuit in state Superior Court by a local group called Bridgeport Generation Now is challenging Mayor Joseph Ganim’s narrow victory in the Sept. 10 Democratic mayoral primary over state Sen. Marilyn Moore. Moore said “blatant voter fraud” related to absentee ballots triggered Ganim's victory.

State election officials are also investigating.

Moore beat Ganim at the polls, 4,721 votes to 4,337, but the mayor won the absentee count 967 to 313. The final tally was 5,304 to 5,034 for Ganim, according to Secretary of State Denise Merrill’s office.

State Superior Court Judge Barry Stevens last week ordered that the plaintiffs receive copies of voter registration documents that the city submitted to state investigators. Stevens is scheduled to hear testimony on Wednesday.

Ganim was mayor from 1991 until his 2003 conviction on federal felony corruption charges.

Four years ago he upset Democratic incumbent Bill Finch.

Ganim on May 27 signed the city’s $563.8 million fiscal 2020 operating budget, up $6.4 million or 1.1% from the previous year. Cost-of-living increases and a small rise in debt service accounted for the increase. Also, the Board of Education received an additional $1 million from city revenues.

Bridgeport’s economic development initiatives revolve around mixed-use space and green technology.

Major projects include Steel Point, the 2.8 million-square-foot waterfront development, for which the first two phases are finished. Bridgeport has also planned more than 9,000 housing units, 50,000 square feet of retail and 200,000 square feet of office use.

In addition, Bridgeport was linked to one of three bids for offshore wind power solicited by Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Vineyard Wind LLC of New Bedford, Massachusetts, has submitted a set of proposals called Park City Wind, which would actually be built across the state line, in one of the company’s two federally designated lease areas near Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Chief executive Lars Pedersen said in a statement that the proposal represents “an opportunity for Connecticut to develop a world-class offshore wind industry in Bridgeport and solidify its role as a high value industry hub in the U.S. for years to come.”

The city has again adopted two general contingency accounts, the first for $1 million for deposit into the accumulated fund balance at the end of the fiscal year; and the second for possible costs related to collective bargaining and other matters.

The city’s grand list rose by 5% from the previous year while its mill rate dropped to 53.99 mills from 54.37.

Bridgeport adopted its five-year, $80 million capital program in late April, with $26 million earmarked for FY20. The city expects to bond 75% of the appropriations of this plan.

PFM is the municipal advisor for the bond sale. Pullman & Comley LLC is bond counsel. Updike, Kelly & Spellacy PC is representing the underwriters.

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Primary bond market Public pensions Taxable bonds Elections City of Bridgeport, CT Connecticut