DALLAS — Triple-A rated Tarrant County plans to bring $112 million of limited tax bonds to market Tuesday and Bexar County will offer $103 million of venue revenue and refunding bonds in multiple series at some point this week.

JPMorgan is lead manager for the negotiated issues.

Most of the Bexar County sale is a refunding but about $11.5 million is new-money debt for continued development of amateur sports and tourism projects.

In May, voters in the county, which includes San Antonio, approved extending the existing 1.75% hotel-occupancy tax and 5% car-rental tax, which were first approved in 1999 to finance the construction of the AT&T Center.

Revenue from the taxes will support debt to fund an extension of the San Antonio River Walk, new athletic fields, upgrades to a rodeo arena, other cultural-arts projects, and improvements to the AT&T Center, which is home to the Spurs of the National Basketball Association.

Fitch Ratings assigned an A rating to the sale and affirmed the rating on the venue-project revenue bonds outstanding. Analysts cited the county’s “role as the top tourist destination in Texas, ongoing expansion of hotel-room capacity with major convention center and resort hotels, strong voter support for the venue-tax extensions and diverse tourism related projects” as credit strengths.

The rating also reflects the “inherent volatility of the pledged revenue streams during economic downturns.”

Moody’s Investors Service assigned its A2 rating to the sale and analysts said “the hospitality industry has a significant impact on the local economy.”

Back in North Texas, Tarrant County’s $112 million deal is part of a seven- to eight-year debt plan to upgrade various county facilities, streets, and parks through annual sales.

This is the third installment from a May 2006 authorization of $433 million, the largest in the history of the county, which includes Fort Worth. Officials expect to bring another $50 million to $53 million to market within 12 months.

After this sale, the county will have $198 million of authorized but unissued debt, which includes some from a 1998 bond package.

Estrada Hinojosa & Co., Siebert Brandford Shank & Co., and Morgan Keegan & Co. are co-managers for the sale. First Southwest Co. is the financial adviser to the county. Kelly Hart & Hallman LLP and Fulbright & Jaworski LLP serve as co-bond counsel.

The Series 2008 bonds, which are structured as serials reaching final maturity in 2028, won’t be insured due to the county’s triple-A credit.

Standard & Poor’s analysts cited the continued expansion and broadening of the county’s sizable property-tax base and good financial management as they assigned the AAA rating to the sale.

The county’s fiscal 2008 taxable-assessed value rose 7% from a year earlier to $113.6 billion, which is roughly 34% higher than $84.6 billion in fiscal 2004.

Moody’s analysts also affirmed the Aaa rating on the county’s $351 million of general obligation debt outstanding.

The state capital of Austin expects to sell three tranches of GO debt in the competitive market Thursday.

The city will issue about $76 million of public improvement bonds, $26.7 million of public property finance contractual obligations, and $10.7 million of certificates of obligation. Public Finance Management is the financial adviser to the city, which carries an underlying rating of AA-minus from Fitch.

In January, Standard & Poor’s raised Austin’s GO debt to AAA and analysts assigned the gilt-edged rating to this week’s issue. The upgrade was “based on the likelihood the city’s employment base and fiscal policies should allow it to maintain its strong financial condition even during moderate economic fluctuations.”

A handful of school districts are issuing bonds this week wrapped with the triple-A guarantee of the state’s Permanent School Fund.

San Benito Consolidated Independent School District is offering $37 million of school building bonds this week through a negotiated issue led by Estrada Hinojosa.

RBC Capital Markets is the financial adviser to the South Texas district that serves about 11,000 students. Proceeds will fund two new schools and additions to an agricultural-science complex.

Fitch assigned an A-minus underlying rating to the sale due to the district’s “healthy assessed-valuation growth, favorable financial performance with adequate fund-balance reserves, and financial pressure from rising health insurance costs.”

The district receives over 75% of its funding for both operations and debt service from the state due to its low wealth-per-student ratio, according to analysts.

Clint Independent School District plans to issue $30.2 million of school building bonds this week in a negotiated sale led by Southwest Securities Inc.

This is the final slice of a $90 million bond package approved by voters in May 2006 for three new campuses and upgrades to existing facilities.

First Southwest is the financial adviser to the West Texas district about 18 miles southeast of El Paso on the Rio Grande.

Clint ISD includes part of the Fort Bliss military base and serves about 10,400 students. Officials expect the student population to more than double in the next five years and top 24,000 by 2010, due in part to the Department of Defense’s Base Realignment and Closure program.

El Paso’s Fort Bliss is expected to add 20,000 troops over the next few years.

Jarrell Independent School District is bringing $9 million of unlimited-tax school building bonds to the competitive market Wednesday on the heels of an upgrade from Standard &Poor’s.

Analysts raised the underlying credit of the suburban district north of Austin to A from BBB-plus due to an expanding and diversifying tax base and strong financial position.

The property-tax base averaged 21% annual growth since fiscal 2006 to $647 million, or an extremely strong $145,430 per capita, for fiscal 2009, according to Standard & Poor’s. The upgrade also applies to $26 million of debt outstanding. 

 

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