CHICAGO — Underwriters, financial advisers, and bond counsel interested in working on upcoming general obligation issues for Cook County, Ill., have until tomorrow at 10 a.m. to submit their interest to the county.
The county will assemble one or more financial teams to bring at least three planned issues to market over the next several months. The 17-member Board of Commissioners needs to approve the teams selected.
Cook hopes to enter the market at once with all three issues, according to Jaye Morgan Williams, the county’s chief financial officer, who took over the office in August 2009.
“It’s not cost-effective to go out multiple times a year,” Williams said. “In this interest rate environment, why not do one funding?”
First on tap is $80 million of three-year notes that will be used to pay off the rest of the county’s 2007 pension obligation. The full payment is $104 million but the county board agreed to pay for $24 million out of its operating fund.
Cook also plans to borrow between $300 million and $400 million of new-money debt to finance capital projects and its massive health and hospital system.
“We’ve been meeting today with commissioners and the president around what it makes sense to do right now,” Williams said. “I hope to have [the size and number of bond issues figured out] by the end of March.”
The county plans to refund a yet-to-be-determined chunk of its outstanding debt to achieve savings and shift some of its variable-rate debt into a fixed-rate mode.
Officials are also trying to decide whether to renew a pair of interest-rate swaps that term out at the end of April, Williams said.
The new-money issue will likely include $83 million to help pay for a $108 million renovation of the massive and historic former Cook County Hospital building on Chicago’s West Side.
The county closed the hospital in 2002 and initially planned to demolish it. Those plans were stopped after a series of high-profile protests by preservationists.
The board this week signed off on a plan to renovate the building into office space for the health and hospital system.
Of the $108 million price tag, just under $84 million would come from bonds and the remaining $24 million would come from a tax-increment financing district fund.
The hospital sits on one of the oldest TIF districts in Chicago.
Williams said she is hoping the new-money issue will take care of the county’s needs for the rest of fiscal 2010.
Williams was brought in as CFO last August by board President Todd Stroger, who in early February lost his bid to return for a second term next year.
Long-time Chicago Alderman Toni Preckwinkle beat Stroger in the Democratic primary, and will face Republican challenger Roger Keats in the November general election.
The second-largest county in the U.S., Cook has roughly $3.2 billion of outstanding debt.
The county’s GOs are rated AA by Standard & Poor’s, Aa3 by Moody’s Investors Service, and AA-minus by Fitch Ratings.