DALLAS — The fast-growing Round Rock Independent School District north of Austin is preparing to issue $104 million of debt, including $92 million of Build America Bonds, as Texas school districts face prospects for greater budget austerity.
The negotiated pricing of $11.4 million of Series C tax-exempt bonds and $92.4 million of BABs is led by Siebert Brandford Shank & Co.
The bonds will carry triple-A ratings because of their guarantee from the state’s Permanent School Fund, but Moody’s Investors Service also confers its Aaa on the district’s underlying rating.
“The Aaa rating reflects the district’s sizeable tax base, favorable socioeconomic profile, strong financial operations, and elevated debt profile spurred by rapid enrollment growth,” analyst Leslie Lukens wrote in last week’s rating report.
Standard & Poor’s last April conferred an underlying rating of AA but had not issued an updated report as of last week. Fitch Ratings does not rate the district.
Round Rock ISD encompasses about 110 square miles within Williamson and Travis counties. It has become a major employment center for the high-tech, health care, and higher education sectors. Its population has grown 24% since the 2000 U.S. Census to an estimated 194,000 residents.
Enrollment in the district has increased by nearly 15,000 over the same time, to 44,569 students for 2010-2011.
Officials project continued enrollment growth of 3% annually over the next five years.
Per-capita income in the 2000 Census was 143% of the state and 130% of the U.S. average.
The August 2010 unemployment rate of 7.4% was below the state’s 8.4% and the nation’s 9.5%.
Despite new construction, the school system’s tax base declined 3.8% for fiscal 2011 to $20.1 billion, according to Moody’s.
“Moody’s believes the district’s growth trends will continue to be affected by the national economic downturn over the near and medium term,” Lukens wrote.
With education the largest expenditure in the state budget, Texas school districts are bracing for possible cuts when the Legislature convenes in January.
The estimated revenue shortfall for the coming biennium could run as high as $24 billion, according to some estimates. That would make the deficit about a quarter of the overall state budget, a situation worse than California’s on a percentage basis.
As a property-rich district, Round Rock ISD contributes property tax to the property-poor districts.
Property tax revenue for local bonded indebtedness is not shared with other districts, however.