DALLAS — The Texas bond market springs back to life in the first full week of 2008 with more than $500 million of issues on the schedule. Jack Addams, senior vice president at First Southwest Co., said the volume is about what he would have expected for the beginning of the year.“People haven’t done anything over the holidays, and they’re ready to get back to work,” Addams said. “It looks like rates are going to stay reasonable and deals are going to get done.”School districts, a university, and special districts are among those returning to the market.Texas A&M University ranks as top issuer with $172 million of system revenue bonds, though it will make a final decision based on market conditions.First Southwest Co. is financial adviser on the competitive sale, with McCall Parkhurst & Horton as bond counsel. The bonds carry ratings of Aa1 from Moody’s Investors Service and AA-plus from Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings.Mary Williams, senior vice president at First Southwest, said that the rolling date for the competitive sale is due to recent market turmoil. The university has a six-month window to sell the debt that will be used for improvements to satellite campuses around the state.“The first day being targeted is Jan. 10, and we’re going to decide on the afternoon of the 9th,” Williams said. Response to Texas A&M’s debt has been “very favorable” in the past, she added.The Harris County Cultural Education Facilities District had planned to offer $157 million of revenue bonds with Goldman, Sachs & Co. as underwriter and First Southwest as financial adviser. However, the deal on behalf of the YMCA is being postponed to the end of the month because the nonprofit is nearing its annual audit, officials said.The Spring Independent School District leads school issuers with $146 million of schoolhouse and refunding bonds on Wednesday with First Southwest as underwriter and RBC Capital Markets as financial adviser.With a population of 147,963, Spring ISD is in northern Harris County 20 miles north of downtown Houston. The 58-square-mile district enjoys a tax base of $7.8 billion in fiscal 2008, up by 7.5% from the previous year’s level and 36.6% over the past five years. The tax base is diverse with the 10 leading taxpayers accounting for 7.8% of total assessed value, according to analysts at Standard & Poor’s.Another Houston-area system — the Waller Independent School District — is also on the calendar with a $49 million bonds sale, despite litigation over alleged racial bias in the allocation of the proceeds. The issue, negotiated through First Southwest, was postponed from last summer because of a lawsuit by a Waller County justice of the peace who claimed that a historically black elementary school on the campus of Prairie View A&M University had not received its proper share of the funds.While state courts cleared the Waller ISD bonds for sale, a federal lawsuit is still pending.“Waller ISD is still awaiting approval from the attorney general’s office, but they are proceeding forward in anticipation of that approval,” said Pat Mizzell, an attorney for Vinson & Elkins who is representing the district in the lawsuit. If the state attorney general declares the bonds free of litigation, the sale can go forward. Also issuing on the negotiated calendar is the Willis Independent School District, which will price $16 million through First Southwest. Those bonds will carry triple-A ratings because of backing from the Texas Permanent School Fund.A smaller system, La Vernia Independent School District in South Texas, will sell $9.5 million of bank qualified GO bonds competitively next week. Those bonds also carry the PSF’s triple-A.Among state agencies, the Texas Affordable Housing Corp. leads off the year with $26.1 million of single family mortgage revenue bonds in a negotiated deal with RBC.
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