NEW YORK - Moody's Investors Service said it has assigned a Aa3 rating to the township of Lawrence, N.J.'s $4.865 million general obligation bonds, Series 2012.

The downgrade of the rating from Aa2 affects approximately $22 million of parity debt that will be outstanding after this sale.

Proceeds of the current issue will be used to advance refund the township's Series 2004 bonds for estimated net present value savings of $195,000, or 4% of refunded principal.

About $90,000 of the savings will be realized in the current fiscal year, with the remainder spread out evenly until the final 2019 maturity.

The downgrade to Aa3 reflects a trend of a deteriorating financial position, marked by an increasing reliance on reserves coupled with a declining fund balance.

The rating also incorporates a large, strong tax base that is under some pressure due to tax appeals, as well as a modest debt burden that is expected to decline.

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