DALLAS — There are just a handful of issues set to come to market this week after about $2.4 billion of Texas debt priced last week.

In the largest deal of the week, the capital city of Austin plans to offer $175 million of general obligation refunding bonds Thursday on the heels of an upgrade to triple-A. Lehman Brothers is lead manager.

Standard & Poor’s raised its rating on the credit to AAA based on “management’s maintenance of strong reserve levels, established by policy, that would likely allow the city to sustain its elevated financial condition even in the event of fiscal stresses such as the IT sector downturn that the Austin MSA suffered through from 2000 to 2002.”

The upgrade also applies to about $781.5 million of outstanding GO debt.

Fitch Ratings maintained its AA-plus rating on the city and Moody’s Investors Service affirmed its Aa1 rating on the credit.

Public Financial Management Inc. is the financial adviser to the city and McCall, Parkhurst & Horton LLP is bond counsel.

Austin is the fourth largest city in Texas and ranked as the third fastest-growing city in the nation from 2000 through 2006, according to the Census Bureau. The city is now home to nearly 730,000 with a metro area of more than 1.5 million residents.

Austin is the third Texas town to attain the highest possible rating, joining the Dallas suburbs of Irving and Plano, which is also pricing debt this week.

In the competitive market today, Plano plans to offer a three-tranche deal worth $60.5 million. The North Texas city will issue $41.3 million of GO bonds, $17.1 million of tax notes, and $2.1 million of municipal drainage utility system revenue bonds.

First Southwest is the financial adviser to the growing city. Plano’s current population of about 270,000 is up more than 21% since the 2000 Census.

Standard & Poor’s assigned a AAA rating to the GO bonds and notes, and a AA-plus rating to the utility debt. The strong ratings reflect the city’s above-average wealth and income levels, stable operations with sufficient growth capacity, and solid financial position, according to analysts.

After a few dozen school districts sold debt the past couple weeks, there’s just one Texas school system on this week’s schedule.

Irving Independent School District will issue $86.9 million of school building bonds through a negotiated sale led by Morgan Keegan.

The bonds will be backed by the state’s triple-A rated Permanent School Fund.

In November, voters in the suburban Dallas district approved a $250 million bond package and this is the first issue from that authorization.

The district serves about 33,200 students in 20 elementary schools, seven middle schools, four high schools, three early-childhood schools, and five learning centers.

Elsewhere, the Harris County Cultural Education Facilities Finance Corp. may finally bring about $157 million of Series 2008A revenue bonds to market this week on behalf of the YMCA of the Greater Houston Area

The issue was initially expected to be closer to $350 million and price in November, and it was on the schedule again earlier this month.

A representative with First Southwest, the financial adviser to the conduit issuer, previously said the deal was being pushed back to this week because the YMCA is nearing its annual audit.

Goldman, Sachs & Co. is lead manager for the negotiated sale. Vinson & Elkins LLP is bond counsel.

Proceeds will fund most of the capital improvements of the organization’s Vision 2020 strategic plan, including 19 construction projects and the purchase of 10 future building sites.

Moody’s assigned a long-term unenhanced rating of Baa3 to the deal, three notches below the A3 rating on YMCA’s 2002 bonds because of “the dramatic increase in debt and greatly heightened debt service associated with the current offering.”


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