DALLAS — With the 4th of July holiday on Friday, there’s only a handful of deals set to price this week in Texas.

Harris County may price $77.2 million of toll road subordinate-lien revenue refunding bonds this week. Piper Jaffray & Co. and Citi are co-managers for the negotiated sale. First Southwest Co. is the financial adviser to the county, which includes Houston.

In 1983, Harris County voters approved $900 million of toll road bonds and there will be $17.7 million of that authorization remaining unissued after this sale. Overall, the county has about $2.36 billion of debt outstanding, including toll road bonds, limited-tax and unlimited-tax debt.

The toll-road debt carries underlying ratings of A-plus from Fitch Ratings.

Harris County’s GO debt is rated AA-plus by Fitch, Aa1 by Moody’s Investors Service, and AAA by Standard & Poor’s.

In April, Standard & Poor’s raised the credit of the nation’s third-largest county to triple A due to “continued strong economic trends and financial performance.” Harris County is home to more than 3.9 million residents 

First Southwest is the lead manger for two negotiated sales by Texas school districts this week. All the bonds come to market with the triple-A wrap provided by the state’s Permanent School Fund.

Today George West Independent School District will issue $8.6 million of school building bonds. Voters in the small rural district approved the bonds in an election last month.

The district is about 85 miles south of San Antonio. Proceeds from the debt will fund renovations to the district’s three schools. Total enrollment is about 1,150 students.

The Sherman Independent School District is coming to market with about $22.7 million of variable-rate school building bonds this week through a negotiated deal led by First Southwest. This sale exhausts a $77 million bond package approved by voters in 2005.

RBC Capital Markets is the financial adviser to the North Texas district that serves an enrollment of about 6,500.

Sherman ISD carries underlying ratings of A2 from and A-plus from Standard & Poor’s.

The central Texas town of Temple was going to sell about $39.2 million of general obligation debt in three tranches this week but chose to wait until next Monday, July 8, to price the debt avoiding the holiday-shortened week, according to finance director Traci Barnard

The city will issue $9.8 million of GO bonds and nearly $14 million of combination tax and revenue certificates of obligation in negotiated sales led by SAMCO Capital Markets. It also will offer $15.4 million of utility system revenue bonds with Banc of America Securities as lead manager. The sale comes to market on the heels of an upgrade from Standard & Poor’s.

Estrada Hinojosa & Co. Inc. and Raymond James & Associates Inc. round out the underwriting syndicate.

First Southwest is financial adviser to the city and McCall, Parkhurst & Horton LLP is bond counsel.

Standard & Poor’s raised the city’s GO and utility credit to AA from AA-minus. Analysts said the water and sewer debt was upgraded due to solid coverage levels, a willingness to increase rates, and ample water supply and treatment capacity.

The GO debt was bumped up because of the city’s continued economic expansion and historically strong reserves.

Temple, which is adjacent to Fort Hood Army Base and about 60 miles north of Austin, ended fiscal 2007 with an unreserved general fund balance of $21 million, or 43% of operations, according to analysts.

Barnard said officials are pleased with the upgrade, which should lower costs of issuance and may negate the need for bond insurance.

“We priced some insurance and it’s pretty high,” she said. “We’re really hoping to do with out it.” 

 

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