School district receives A+ credit rating
Standard & Poor’s Rating Services, an independent provider of credit ratings, recently gave the Lee County School District’s Certificates of Participation an A+ rating.
According to officials from the school district, the A+ long-term rating was given to the 2009A series of the district’s COPs or certificates that are used for lease-purchase financing.
“This is yet another validation that the fiscal approach we’ve taken the past few years is the right thing to do,” said Lee Schools Superintendent James Browder in a statement to the media. “Especially in these trying economic times, it’s vital we continue to safeguard our finances so the district can continue to operate at the highest levels.”
Ratings are determined based on the district’s credit, its master-lease structure, its strong financial performance even when local property tax revenues have decreased, its five-year financial plan and low overall debt levels.
Even though the Cape Coral-Fort Myers metropolitan area was rated one of the fastest growing communities before the U.S. economy crashed in 2008, today it leads the nation in foreclosures and unemployment.
The 2009-2010 budget for the Lee County School District decreased 5.5 percent from the former academic year, and the general fund decreased by $48.2 million because of a major drop in property tax revenue, according to the district’s official budget.
Furthermore, this year the county tax roll decreased by 22 percent.
In order to maintain the district’s credit some cuts were made.
“Unfortunately, we have been faced with unprecedented financial times, and we had to make tough choices,” said Browder.
Eight percent of staff was reduced in the last two years or the equivalent of approximately 800 positions.
According to district officials, the S&P attributed the district’s continued strong financial positioning to its willingness to cut expenditures.
“No one likes making those cuts, but every move that was made was done so after careful review to ensure we safeguarded our classrooms as much as possible,” said Browder.