DALLAS — Dallas Area Rapid Transit will issue $825 million of bonds supported by sales tax and farebox revenue next week under a resolution adopted Tuesday by the DART finance committee.
The negotiated sale will include $100 million of tax-exempt refunding bonds and $725 million of taxable Build America Bonds.
DART chief financial officer David Leininger said a final decision has not yet been made on the actual size of the issue, but the bonds will be offered late next week if market conditions are favorable.
“It looks like we’re set to go to market on Sept. 23, but it could be delayed until the 27th,” he said. “It depends on the tone of the market.”
Leininger said the transit agency had intended to issue $400 million of debt in fiscal 2011 and a similar amount in 2012, but moved up next year’s planned sale to take advantage of the interest-rate subsidy for BABs.
“We decided to combine the issues because the interest rates have changed in our favor, and that has happened over the last 120 days,” he said. “We are anticipating debt service savings of about $100 million with BABs over the life of the bonds.”
Information provided to the finance committee shows anticipated interest rates on the tax-exempt debt at 2.5%, with the BABs expected to price at 3.35%.
“We issued almost a billion dollars of BABs in June 2009, at very competitive rates,” Leninger said. “Since then, the rates have gotten even better.”
The sales tax bonds are rated Aa3 by Moody’s Investors Service and AAA by Standard & Poor’s. DART has $2.6 billion of outstanding sales-tax debt.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch is the senior underwriter. Co-seniors include Loop Capital Markets LLC, M.R. Beal & Co., and Siebert Brandford Shank & Co. RBC Capital Markets and Southwest Securities Inc. are co-managers.
Vinson & Elkins LLP and West & Associates are co-bond counsels. Financial adviser is Estrada Hinojosa & Co.
The finance committee also unanimously approved DART’s fiscal 2011 budget of $1.26 billion, which includes $707 million of capital improvements and debt service of $127 million.
Unlike DART’s previous bond issues, which were supported solely by the agency’s 1% sales tax levied within the 13 member cities, the new bonds are supported by passenger revenue as well. Debt service on the bonds has a first lien on the farebox revenue.
Area voters approved the 1% sale tax in 2001. The ballot measure restricted DART to $2.9 billion of debt supported by revenue from the sales tax. But the 2009 Texas Legislature approved a bill that allows the agency to issue additional debt if the support includes other revenue sources.
DART can issue another $140 million of debt supported solely by sales tax revenue.
Sales tax revenue in fiscal 2011 is estimated at $393.9 million. Collections are expected to rise to $418 million in 2012, slightly above the peak of $416 million reached in fiscal 2008.
The 1% sales tax is expected to account for 49% of DART’s total revenue through 2015. If debt proceeds and federal funding are taken out of the mix, the portion of sales tax revenue jumps to 78%.
Leininger said all the new-money debt would be dedicated to DART’s $3 billion Green Line light-rail extension. When the line is operational, it will increase DART’s light-rail system to 90 miles from 48.
“The Green Line project is the biggest light-rail effort under way in North America, and accounts for 25% of all the miles of light rail currently under construction,” Leininger said.
The newly adopted 20-year financial plan calls for DART to reduce its dependency on its commercial paper program to fund construction projects and instead issue variable-rate demand bonds to a ceiling of 15% of total debt.
DART expects the first issue under the new strategy to be $220 million of long-term variable-rate demand notes in fiscal 2014.
Proceeds will be used to refund outstanding CP notes and provide new money for the capital program. A $150 million refunding issue is anticipated in 2016.
DART’s 700-miles service area includes 13 cities in five counties with a total population of 2.3 million. Member cities include Dallas, Irving, Plano, Richardson, and Garland.