-- Implied general obligation (GO) rating affirmed at 'AA+';
The Rating Outlook is Stable.
The capital revenue improvement bonds are secured by a combination of the county's portion of the half-cent sales tax as well as guaranteed entitlement revenues, second guaranteed entitlement revenues, and certain additional state revenue sharing funds.
KEY RATING DRIVERS
STRONG FINANCIAL PROFILE: The county's financial profile is characterized by prudent, forward-looking budgeting, high reserve levels, and strong liquidity supported by a demonstrated willingness to raise recurring revenues.
STABLE ECONOMY: The county's stable economy is supported by a large public sector presence including the state capitol and higher education. The economy continues to rebound from the recent slowdown, as exhibited by increasing permit activity and renewed positive growth in the tax base.
LOW DEBT BURDEN: The debt burden is expected to remain low given the county's rapid principal amortization, continued utilization of a
GRADUALLY IMPROVING SPECIAL TAX COVERAGE: Coverage of maximum annual debt service (MADS) was an adequate 1.54x in fiscal year 2013 and continues to slowly increase as half-cent sales tax revenues post annual gains. MADS decreases substantially over the medium-term and the county has no further plans to leverage this revenue stream, which will also improve the coverage metric.
SHIFT IN FUNDAMENTALS: The rating is sensitive to shifts in credit fundamentals. The Stable Outlook reflects Fitch's opinion that such shifts are unlikely.
CONTINUED ADEQUATE COVERAGE: The special tax bond rating could be pressured if coverage declines from current levels, which are considered just adequate.
The county is located in the northwest
STRONG FINANCIAL POSITION
Fitch believes the county's stable economy, conservative revenue assumptions, careful expenditure management, and historic trend of budget surpluses should support sound reserves over the longer term.
The county consistently exceeds its fund balance policy, which calls for unrestricted reserves in the general fund and fines and forfeitures fund (both recipients of the countywide property tax levy) to exceed 15% of combined spending in both funds. The county posted
The county adjusted both revenues and expenditures to mitigate the impact of recessionary revenue pressure, yielding surplus operations in four of the last six fiscal years. Attrition, layoffs, and capital spending deferrals helped control expense growth. The county enhanced recurring revenues by implementing a
Fitch believes county projections for a fiscal 2014 (ending
STABLE ECONOMY ANCHORED BY STATE CAPITOL AND EDUCATION
A significant public sector presence continues to support stability in the regional economy. The unemployment rate has decreased to 5.8% as of
LOW DEBT, MANAGEABLE CAPITAL PROGRAM
Overall debt is low at
The county's contribution to the Florida Retirement System (FRS) is a manageable cost pressure at
IMPROVING DEBT SERVICE COVERAGE
The pledged revenues are largely composed of the county's portion of the half-cent sales tax, accounting for 84% of pledged revenues in fiscal 2013. This revenue stream is projected to post 2.5% average annual growth through fiscal 2014. MADS coverage has increased from a low of 1.38x in 2010 to an adequate 1.54x in fiscal 2013, still below pre-recession levels. The additional bonds test is weak, requiring that pledged sales tax revenue during any 12 consecutive months of the 24 months immediately preceding the issuance of additional bonds must equal 1.35x MADS for all outstanding bonds.
The county has no plans to further leverage the pledged revenue and the stable economy and increasing development activity should support stable to growing coverage in the near term. Current MADS of
Additional information is available at 'www.fitchratings.com'.
In addition to the sources of information identified in Fitch's Tax-Supported Rating Criteria, this action was additionally informed by information from Creditscope,
-- 'Tax-Supported Rating Criteria' (
-- 'U.S. Local Government Tax-Supported Rating Criteria' (
Tax-Supported Rating Criteria
U.S. Local Government Tax-Supported Rating Criteria
Source: Fitch Ratings
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