DALLAS – With the Mile High City's economy still climbing, Denver Public Schools is enjoying an uplift in its credit rating.
Citing the school district's return to financially balanced operations, Standard & Poor's upgraded the district's general obligation rating to AA from AA-minus on Dec. 4 while keeping the outlook stable.
"The raised ratings are due to the district's continued strong economy and recent return to balanced operations, with strong available general fund balances," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Bryan Moore.
The upgrade leaves DPS with split ratings; it's also rated AA-plus by Fitch Ratings and Aa3 by Moody's Investors Service.
The district, which shares boundaries with the city and county of Denver, has about $1.36 billion of general obligation bonds and $1.04 billion of certificates of participation outstanding, according to Moody's.
Following two fiscal years of decreases due to broad weakness in the real estate market, the district's tax base rebounded by 4.7% in fiscal year 2014 and an additional 1.5% in fiscal 2015 to $11.4 billion, according to S&P.
"We expect that the district will experience continued assessed valuation growth in fiscal 2016, which is consistent with most communities along the Front Range," Moore said. "Market value, a measure of the district's taxpayer wealth, has demonstrated a similar trend, increasing to $81 billion, or an estimated $128,000 per capita in fiscal 2015, which we consider extremely strong."
The district's enrollment grew by 3.5% for fiscal year 2015, to roughly 89,427. Enrollment has increased by an average annual rate of between 2% and 3% for the past several years. The district forecasts enrollment will increase by about 6,500 over the next four years, due primarily to the area's positive economic trends.
With the upgrade, the district now has a higher S&P rating than the Colorado State Aid Intercept Program that backs public school bonds in the state. The state program is rated AA-minus.
On Dec. 1, the district named an acting superintendent to fill in for Tom Boasberg, who is taking a six-month sabbatical.
Susana Cordova, chief schools officer, will act as superintendent during the interim, the district announced.
"We are committed to driving forward our progress in the coming months, and Susana will be a very strong leader to do so," said DPS Board President Anne Rowe.
Boasberg announced his plan to take unpaid family leave last month and will fulfill a commitment to travel and live abroad with his family from Jan. 1 to July 1, 2016.
Boasberg first joined DPS as chief operating officer in 2006 and then became superintendent seven years ago, making him one of the longest-serving superintendents in any major U.S. city.