DALLAS — Rockwall County is coming to market next week with the first slice of a bond authorization approved in November to improve roads to handle increased traffic from a booming population.
The county — the smallest in size in Texas at 147 square miles — plans to offer $24.6 million of limited-tax refunding bonds and $10.7 million of unlimited-tax road bonds Tuesday through negotiated sales. RBC Capital Markets, Morgan Keegan & Co., and Raymond James & Associates Inc. are co-managers for the sales.
First Southwest Co. is the financial adviser to the formerly rural community, and Vinson & Elkins LLP is bond counsel. Both tranches of bonds are structured as serials maturing in 2010 through 2034.
The road bonds include $8 million of debt from a 2004 authorization approved by three-quarters of the electorate to build four interchanges with Interstate 30 within the county and further improve access to Dallas, which is about 30 miles to the west. The remaining $2.5 million of road bonds are from the $100 million bond package that passed last fall.
Boyd London, managing director at First Southwest, said the debt won’t be insured as the county has garnered ratings in the double-A category, “which gives us a lot of flexibility.”
Moody’s Investors Service assigned its Aa3 to the issue, citing the county’s solid tax base and strong wealth levels coupled with ample general fund reserves driven by annual surpluses.
London said Standard & Poor’s is expected to assign a AA rating to the issue.
Fitch Ratings is expected to assign a AA-minus rating, representing the first time the agency has rated the county’s underlying credit.
Despite the national slowdown in the housing market, people continue to flock to the exurbs northeast of Dallas, and Rockwall County is the third-fastest growing county in the country, according to the Census Bureau. The county’s population has nearly doubled this decade to more than 84,000 currently from 43,080 in 2000, which was up 68% from 1990.
County treasurer Bill Sinclair said growth “has slowed down quite a bit” of late and about 100 homes are now in foreclosure across the county.
“Our taxable-assessed valuation is up about $40 million this year, which is a bit of a leveling off after we averaged 6% to 7% growth the past few years,” he said.
The county’s fiscal 2009 taxable-assessed value of $6.74 billion is up 7.6% from the prior year and 50% higher than $4.48 billion in 2005.
Proceeds from the road bonds will fund the pre-planning and preparation of four road projects in the county, including the environmental and engineering studies, Sinclair said.
“This will position us to be ready with construction once we see the levels of funds we expect to receive be it from [Texas Department of Transportation], federal monies, or regional assistance,” he said.
Most of the county’s roads were built more than 50 years ago as farm-to-market roads to accommodate one-way traffic in each direction. Many also lack adequate shoulders and have steep road beds due to multiple resurfacings.