DALLAS - Bexar County, Tex., is postponing its $103 million of newly authorized venue-tax revenue bonds until next week, with the expectation of stronger market demand after the Labor Day holiday.
The bonds, approved by voters in May, were tentatively scheduled for pricing this week. But with rating reports and a tax revenue analysis wrapping up late last week, Bexar decided to wait, said Tina Smith-Dean, manager of management and financial services for Texas' third most populous county.
"We were waiting for our ratings, and we're still looking at insurance," Smith-Dean said yesterday.
The ratings came in at A-minus from Standard & Poor's, A2 from Moody's Investors Service, and A from Fitch Ratings.
"We're very happy with those ratings," Smith-Dean said.
In June, the county won its first Standard & Poor's upgrade on its general obligation debt in 12 years, rising to AA-plus from AA. That upgrade followed a boost from Moody's last year that lifted the county from Aa2 to Aa1. Fitch maintains a GO rating of AA-plus.
The upcoming issue, now set for Sept. 4, will come in four series - including a taxable $52 million piece - through negotiation with co-managers JPMorgan and Wells Fargo Brokerage Services. M.E. Allison & Co. and Samco Capital Markets serve as financial advisers on the deal.
Except for about $11 million of new money, the upcoming issue will be a refunding of existing debt for the AT&T Arena, for which the first venue-tax revenue bonds were issued. The refunding should expand the capacity of the bond program through savings, Smith-Dean said.
Next summer, Bexar expects to issue new-money bonds for projects headed by the $125 million extension of the San Antonio River Walk southward toward the city's historic mission district.
A Houston contractor has already been hired to begin work on the first phase of the extension known as Mission Reach. The $23.4 million contract was awarded to Laughlin-Thyssen Inc.based on its experience with similar projects.
No local bond money will be used for the first phase of the River Walk extension, which is a joint project of San Antonio, Bexar County, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the San Antonio River Authority.
Phase two of the Mission Reach is expected to begin about a year from now, funded by the venue tax bonds, said Steven Schauer, spokesman for the San Antonio River Authority.
The venue tax is levied on hotel rooms and rental cars. In May, Bexar County voters approved continuing the tax after bonds for the AT&T Arena are paid off. The extended venue tax will cover about $415 million of projects, including recreational facilities and improvements to the AT&T Arena.
In addition to public funds, the San Antonio River Foundation has set a goal of raising $50 million in private donations for amenities on the walk.