NEW YORK - Moody's Investors Service said it has assigned an underlying Aa3 rating to Marion County, Fla.'s sale of $38.6 million utilities system revenue refunding bonds, Series 2012, and upgraded the rating to Aa3 from A1 on $42.1 million in pre-refunding parity rated utilities system revenue bonds.

The bonds are secured by net revenues of the water and sewer system and legally available connection fees.

Bond proceeds will be used to refund $7.8 million Series 2001 term bonds and $32.1 million Series 2003 serial and term bonds for an estimated $1.814 million (4.556% of par) net present value savings, taken over the remaining life of the issues.

The Aa3 rating assignment and upgrade is based on: improved financial operations with good debt service coverage and substantial cash; adequate water supply and water and sewer treatment capacity of this relatively small, fragmented system; and the still somewhat-highly leveraged nature of the system, which is indicative of the capital investment related to its utility purchases. The essential purpose nature of the system and the average demographic indices of the county are supporting factors in the assigned rating.

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