BRADENTON, Fla. — Fitch Ratings on Friday maintained a negative outlook on Collier County, Fla.’s sales and gas tax bonds in part because of “the potential impact of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Collier, one of Florida’s wealthier counties along the state’s southwest coast, has not been affected by tar balls and patties such as those coming ashore in several of the northernmost counties.
Some rating agencies have warned that the Gulf states could see negative credit effects as a result of the oil spill, which has gushed from the sea floor since April 20. Currently, scientists estimate that the damaged pipe’s daily discharge is 35,000 barrels to 60,000 barrels.
The negative outlook on Collier’s $203.8 million of outstanding sales tax revenue bonds and $152.9 million of gas tax revenue bonds was assigned in 2008 due to the recession and its severe impact on the housing market.
On Friday, Fitch affirmed the AA-minus rating on the bonds and maintained the negative outlook due to concern over potential future volatility in pledged revenue and the impact of the oil calamity.
“We’re more concerned about the future of these types of special tax bonds that are more dependent on economic activity and the current situation,” Fitch managing director Amy Laskey said yesterday. “It’s appropriate to keep the negative outlook given there’s such uncertainty about the oil spill.”
So far this fiscal year Collier’s revenue collections have been fairly stable, according to Laskey.
“But we can’t take the first few months of the fiscal year as a stable trend because of the oil spill,” she said.
“In terms of the outlook on other credits, I wouldn’t extrapolate [Collier’s] to mean that we’re going to be putting other bonds in Florida on negative outlook,” Laskey added.
In addition to discussing the sales and gas tax bonds, Fitch on Friday also rated Collier’s upcoming sale of $61 million of non ad valorem revenue bonds AA with a stable outlook. The bonds are expected to be sold competitively July 13.