NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Fitch Ratings assigns an 'AA-' rating to approximately $104.4 million in Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) school districts revenue bond financing program revenue bonds, consisting of:
--$41,505,000 series 2015A;
--$31,670,000 series 2015B;
--$25,985,000 series 2015C;
--$5,205,000 series 2015D.
The bonds are scheduled to be sold through negotiation the week of March 30, 2015.
The Rating Outlook is Stable.
Program bonds are special obligations of DASNY, payable from GO bond payments from school district borrowers. A statutory state school aid intercept enhances the credit quality of the districts' GO bonds and is the basis for the rating.
KEY RATING DRIVERS
--PROGRAM RATING BASED ON STATE INTERCEPT: The 'AA-' program rating, two notches below the State of New York's 'AA+' GO bond rating, reflects the statutory ability to intercept available state school aid to provide funds to pay debt service if borrowers fail to make payments on the underlying loans to DASNY.
--NO ACCELERATION OF AID REQUIRED: The DASNY state aid intercept program is more limited than that of other states, requiring the intercept of aid only as it would otherwise be paid to the local borrowers, rather than providing for an advance of all aid that has been appropriated but not yet paid.
--INTERCEPTABLE PERIOD COVERAGE NOT ASSURED: Although annual state aid has provided coverage of pro forma maximum annual debt service (MADS) for all participating school district borrowers, not all school districts participating in the program have historically received sufficient state aid during all intercept periods. The program does not include any coverage test for interceptable aid, and future borrowing by a school district, including note issuance, can dilute the amount of available interceptable state funds.
--STRONG STATE SUPPORT: There is a constitutional mandate for, and strong history of, state support for education. Fitch believes that program management by DASNY, a key issuer for the state's capital program, is a credit strength.
--STATE CREDIT QUALITY: The rating is sensitive to changes in New York's GO bond rating, to which this rating is linked; changes in the statutes or administrative procedures governing the state aid intercept program; and trends in state school aid appropriations.
Under the school districts revenue bond financing program, borrowing districts deliver GO bonds to DASNY as evidence of their separate obligations to repay their loans. The DASNY program bonds are expected to be repaid from district loan payments to DASNY. No school district is obligated to make payments on behalf of any other district, and the pledged state aid payable to each district secures only the obligations of that individual district.
Loan payments to DASNY are due at least 45 days prior to debt service payments on the DASNY bonds. Borrowing districts agree to assign and pledge to DASNY any state aid funds due to their district. Pursuant to statute and a memorandum of understanding between DASNY, the state comptroller, and the New York State Education Department, upon any school district payment delinquency to DASNY the comptroller must pay to the bond trustee any eligible state funds due and otherwise available to the delinquent school district until debt service is met.
Despite strong state support for education, there is no legal obligation to accelerate appropriated state aid monies to allow for timely bond payment in the event that there are no funds otherwise to be paid to the school district in the intercept period (i.e. between when payment is due to DASNY and when payment is due to bondholders). This leaves bondholders vulnerable to inadequate coverage by state aid payable during the intercept period, a concern exacerbated by historical and potential delays in state aid payments during times of state budgetary and cash flow pressure. Although annual state aid has provided coverage of pro forma MADS, not all participating school districts have historically received sufficient state aid during all intercept periods.
New York has increased funding for education since a year-over-year state school funding cut and change in school building aid practices in the fiscal 2012 state budget. With that budget, the state announced plans to increase state spending growth on schools going forward based on personal income growth in the state, with projected annual increases of about 4% per year. The enacted budgets since then have increased school aid spending at higher levels, with fiscal 2015 appropriated school aid rising 5.3%.
DASNY is authorized to finance only school district capital facilities and equipment that have been approved by the Commissioner of Education and are eligible for building aid. So long as the assets to be financed satisfy these criteria, participation in the program is at the discretion of the districts. Nevertheless, Fitch believes that program management by DASNY, a critical component of the state's overall capital funding program and a sophisticated and experienced manager of debt, is a credit strength.
There are eight school district participants in the current borrowing. Fitch rates the program based on the state intercept enhancement, rather than the credit quality of the underlying districts.
For background on the state's general credit, please see Fitch's press release 'Fitch Rates New York State's $325MM GO Bonds 'AA+'; Outlook Stable,' dated March 6, 2015, available on the Fitch web site at 'www.fitchratings.com'.
Additional information is available at 'www.fitchratings.com'.
In addition to the sources of information identified in Fitch's report 'Tax-Supported Rating Criteria', this action was additionally informed by information from the underwriter and IHS Global Insight.
Applicable Criteria and Related Research:
--'Tax-Supported Rating Criteria', dated Aug. 14, 2012;
--'U.S. State Government Tax-Supported Rating Criteria', dated Aug. 14, 2012;
--'Rating Guidelines for State Credit Enhancement Programs', dated April 18, 2013.
Applicable Criteria and Related Research:
Tax-Supported Rating Criteria
U.S. State Government Tax-Supported Rating Criteria
Rating Guidelines for State Credit Enhancement Programs