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School district receives A+ financial rating

By Staff | Dec 17, 2009

Standards & Poor’s Ratings Services recently assigned its “A+” long-term rating to Lee County Public Schools series 2009A refunding Certificates of Participation. In addition, S&P affirmed its “A+” underlying rating on the District’s previously issued COPs.
“This is yet another validation that the fiscal approach we’ve taken the past few years is the right thing to do,” said Dr. James Browder, superintendent of Schools in a prepared statement. “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.”
The A+ ratings on the District’s COPs are based on the following:
– General credit-worthiness of the District;
– The District’s master lease structure;
– Strong financial performance despite softening property tax revenues;
– Strong financial practices with a five-year long financial plan that is updated at least annually;
– Low overall debt levels, with no plans for additional debt.

S&P cited these strengths as offsetting the District’s “weakening underlying economic base with significant year over year median home price and assessed value decreases and rising unemployment rates.” The organization believes the District has maintained a strong financial position due to the willingness to cut expenditures as revenues decreased while enrollment continued to grow (which is the basis for Florida’s funding formula.) They cited the fact the District trimmed its operating budget by around $30 million in FY09 through a “series of staffing cuts and program reductions.”
“Unfortunately we have been faced with unprecedented financial times, and we had to make tough choices,” Browder said. “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.”
S&P believes the outlook for Lee County Public Schools is stable and that the District will maintain a strong financial position and continue to trim expenses as needed to offset any further weakening property tax revenue, district officials said.

Source: School District of Lee County