DALLAS — Harris County gets the show on the road this week for large Texas issuers with a $350 million toll road revenue bond deal led by Goldman, Sachs & Co.

The negotiated deal, planned for tomorrow with First Southwest Co. as financial adviser, comes with an upgrade from Moody’s Investors Service to Aa3 from A1. That rating puts Moody’s in line with Standard & Poor’s, which maintained its AA-minus. The county is awaiting a report from Fitch Ratings.

Edwin Harrison, director of financial services for the county, said he expects strong demand for the bonds, which will carry no insurance.

“Our credit seems to be going up while everybody else’s is going — down,” he said.

Harris County, which includes the county seat of Houston, is experiencing continued growth and rising toll revenues, despite a weakening national economy.

The Texas Transportation Commission, one of the state’s largest debt issuers, will follow Harris County to market with a $169 million revenue bond issue backed by the State Highway Fund. Senior manager on the deal will be Morgan Keegan & Co. with Estrada Hinojosa, Siebert Brandford & Shank, First Southwest, and Southwest Securities as co-managers. RBC Capital Markets serves as financial adviser.

Proceeds from the bond sale will finance a variety of projects according to the Texas Department of Transportation, the agency that is governed by the Texas Transportation Commission.

The issue comes as TxDOT and the TTC are undergoing their Sunset Commission review, which produced a report highly critical of the agency’s way of operating and suggested taking TTC appointments out of the governor’s hands and putting the Texas Legislature in charge.

Another sizeable issue will be coming from Austin Energy, which is selling $175 million of revenue refunding bonds competitively on Thursday with Public Financial Management Inc. acting as financial adviser and Fulbright & Jaworski as bond counsel.

The Austin bonds, with an average maturity of just over 21 years, are rated A-plus by Standard & Poor’s, A1 by Moody’s, and AA-minus by Fitch. The bonds will carry insurance from Assured Guaranty, a bond insurer that has retained its triple-A ratings.

The utility could be headed for an upgrade after Standard & Poor’s moved its outlook on Friday from stable to positive.

The utility will use the proceeds of the sale to take out commercial paper.

“Our paper is well rated, so we expect a good response,” said Elaine Hart, chief financial officer of the utility.

Texas school districts will continue their parade to the bond market. Districts must make their first debt-service payments on new issues by Aug. 15 to qualify for educational debt assistance from the Texas Education Agency.

Texas school bond issues typically earn triple-A ratings based on their backing by the state’s Permanent School Fund. Some school districts are becoming edgy over the PSF’s capability to back bond issues as the fund nears its authorized capacity. Moves are afoot to increase the leverage of the fund, which is backed by oil and gas royalties and other income from state lands.

The Rockwall Independent School District in the eastern suburbs of Dallas appears on the calendar with $90 million of school building bonds with Southwest Securities as senior manager.

Livingston Independent School District in the piney woods of East Texas will sell $53 million in a negotiated deal with RBC Capital Markets, and Red Oak ISD will issue $45 million of general obligation bonds, also through RBC.

Spring Hill Independent School District will issue $28 million and Fairfield Independent School District between Houston and Dallas will sell $12 million of bonds. Both of those deals are managed by First Southwest. Greenwood Independent School District will sell $6.9 million of school building bonds through RBC with First Southwest as financial adviser on Wednesday.

Other taxing entities issuing debt include the Mission Economic Development Corp. in the Lower Rio Grande Valley with $24 million of variable-rate demand bonds for solid-waste disposal systems.

The town of El Campo will sell $3.9 million of tax and revenue certificates of obligation through Southwest Securities. 

 

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