FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jim Lewin, Lee County Budget Services
COUNTY'S LATEST BOND ISSUE RECEIVES "A1" RATING/REFLECTS STRONG FINANCIAL POLICIES
FORT MYERS, Fla. (October 28, 2003) - Moody's Investors Service, one of the country's four major rating agencies, has assigned an A1 rating to Lee County's proposed refinancing of $42 million of bonds first issued for the Midpoint Memorial Bridge project.
The Board of Lee County Commissioners gave its go-ahead today to move forward with selling the refinancing bonds.
A1 is the agency's highest quality rating for "Upper Medium Grade" debt. The high rating allows the county to sell the bonds at a lower interest rate and is a refection of the county's overall fiscal strength.
Moody's cited "ample pledged non-ad valorem revenues, well-managed financial operations with growing reserve levels, expanding economy with a growing population, and a modest debt position despite future borrowing plans" as the reasons for the rating.
"Conservative budgeting has helped produce favorable budget-to-actual performance in the operating funds," the agency said in a release. "…The county's current debt burden of 0.8% remains moderate, with the continued growth in full valuation."
The $42 million of bonds being refinanced at lower interest rates were first issued in 1991 to pay for engineering design and land acquisition costs for the Midpoint Memorial Bridge. They were later refinanced in 1993 with interest rates ranging from 2.45 percent to 5.4 percent.
The county has a policy of looking into refinancing outstanding bonds if, at current interest rates, it can save at least three percent of the present value of the existing debt. The county and its financial advisors monitor the municipal bond market and if the three-percent criterion is met it proceeds with the refunding and refinancing.
The refinancing of this issue could save the county as much as $3.7 million over the term of the bonds.
Lee County Government's total debt is about $1.2 billion (including the airport, which is a separate, self-supporting authority). Annual debt service (repayment of principal and interest) represents about 7 percent of appropriations. Standard & Poor's Rating Group, another of the major rating agencies, suggests that annual debt service should not exceed 10-to-15 percent of appropriations.
For more information about Lee County's debt, the Lee County Debt Manual is online at the county government's web site (www.lee-county.com) under the "Documents Online" section.