SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is inching closer to becoming a bond issuer and could offer its first deal as early as next year.
Advisers and staff recently briefed the board on a broad strategy for the agency to become an issuer of municipal debt, which included a tentative timeline for sales to start in the summer of 2011.
The agency oversees the San Francisco Municipal Railway, or Muni, the Division of Parking and Traffic, and the Division of Taxis and Accessible Services.
The Muni is the seventh-largest public transit agency in the country and includes light rail, buses, and streetcars. DPT manages 40 city-owned garages and metered parking lots and handles the city’s traffic functions.
Voters gave the transportation agency the power to issue bonds in 2007, but it is just now moving forward. It has some outstanding debt tied to several parking garages that were issued through nonprofit corporations.
The board is still evaluating the process for issuing debt and the projects that would be financed with the bonds, according to chief financial officer Sonali Bose.
“The benefit of the SFMTA issuing bonds is to support its efforts in maintaining and improving the city’s transportation system,” Bose said in an e-mailed statement. “The size of the issue has not yet been determined and is part of the analysis underway.”
Consultants from Public Financial Management, Ross Financial and Backstrom, McCarley, Berry & Co. are advising the SFMTA on issuing paper and recently briefed the board.
The agency still needs to hash out a debt policy, long-term financing, and a credit strategy before any issuance in 2011, according to the board presentation.
The proposal also includes a bond issue through the San Francisco Municipal Railway Improvement Corp., which was established in 1968 as a nonprofit to provide financial help to the agency for upgrading the city’s railway.
The financing through the corporation could be set up using lease revenues from the SFMTA providing security to bondholders.
A bond sale through the corporation could also happen in 2011, according to the presentation. It has issued debt in the past for transit projects.
The next steps for the board include reviewing a long-range plan this month and identifying bonding capacity in December.
The agency’s credit strategy would be to demonstrate its strong operating performance and ability to deliver on capital projects, identify strong revenue sources for bondholders, and emphasize the strong management and internal controls, according to the presentation.
The agency would join a group of several other issuers in San Francisco, which include the public utilities commission, the airport commission, the city’s redevelopment agency, the community college and unified school districts, the city and county finance corporation, and the city and county itself.
Since 1996, the top seven San Francisco issuers have sold $17.2 billion of debt, according to Thomson Reuters.