A Connecticut town is enhancing its disclosure practices through new technology, which it says could appeal to smaller municipal issuers.
Windsor, a 29,000-population community that borders state capital Hartford to the north, unveiled a dedicated investor website ahead of its competitive sale of $5.9 million in general obligation bonds last week.
The town, to which S&P Global Ratings assigned its AAA rating, used BondLink, a Boston technology company focused on municipal issuers. BondLink’s founder is Colin MacNaught, the former Massachusetts assistant state treasurer for debt management.
Windsor finance manager James Bourke said the town is using the new system on a trial basis.
“We’re hoping this will lead to more purchases of our bonds, which is a good thing because interest costs will go down,” Bourke said Tuesday by telephone from the Government Finance Officers Association’s annual conference in Denver.
According to a GFOA best-practices memorandum in January, making disclosure information more accessible “will help improve the efficiency of the municipal market and can possibly lower borrowing costs by improving access to information relevant to determining the credit quality of an issuer's bonds.”
Bourke said he found the navigation easy. “You don’t have to be an IT person."
Roosevelt & Cross Inc. submitted the winning bid for the May 17 sale of Series 2017B bonds at a true-interest cost of 2.5394%. Maturities run from 2018 to 2037.
“They want to use technology to efficiently attract more investors, including local retail investors,” said MacNaught. “They can tell their story directly to bond investors, which is how they can distinguish themselves. It signals to bond investors that they’re serious about transparency. ”
Paul Mansour, head of municipal credit research at Hartford-based investment firm Conning, once said at an annual Massachusetts investor conference in Boston that enhanced disclosure “shows me that an issuer is doing a lot of blocking and tackling.”
Windsor’s AAA rating contrasts with the struggles of the state government and Hartford, both of which have received a rash of bond-rating downgrades over the past year.
“It’s a difficult time for localities, given the situation in Connecticut and in Hartford,” said Mark Chapman, the financial advisor for the bond sale and a director at Independent Bond & Investment Consultants LLC in Madison, Conn.
“Windsor is smaller issuer from a national perspective, but in Connecticut, they’re a frequent issuer,” said Chapman. “They’re a very sophisticated community. They did a good job with economic development and they have strong management.
“As the town knows, this is a long-term investment. We all have to get away from providing the bare minimum and provide what investors want, which is more.”
Voters will act on Town Manager Peter Souza’s proposed $115 million fiscal 2018 budget on June 6. While cities and towns could face sharp cuts under Gov. Dannel Malloy’s adjusted biennial budget – a process that could push into June and beyond -- Windsor has to proceed under its own timetable.
“Unfortunately, the town’s budget process schedule does not allow us the luxury of waiting until the state budget is finalized to move forward with our financial plan,” Souza said in his budget message.
S&P, in its presale report, called Windsor’s revenue profile stable and predictable, and largely independent of state or federal funds.
Windsor is home to several large employers in financial services; advanced and precision manufacturing; distribution and logistics; data management; and hospitality.
Leading private employers include Hartford Life, Voya Financial Inc., GE-Alstom Power, Cigna, Amazon.com and Walgreens. In 2015, Amazon finished construction of a 1.5-million-square-foot regional fulfillment center in the town.