S&P gives Phenix City best bond rating in history

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comApril 10, 2013 

For the first time in history, Phenix City has been awarded a Standard & Poor's bond rating of AA-, city leaders announced Wednesday.

"This is a big day for Phenix City," Mayor Eddie Lowe said, speaking to a room full of city employees and media. "They always say you've to get there to stay there. Well, we're there."

In announcing the bond rating change, S&P cited several factors that led to it.

"This upgrade reflects out assessment of the city's ongoing economic development and what we regard as strong budgeting practices, resulting in recent and projected financial improvements," Standard & Poors wrote in announcing the change.

The rating service listed several factors that went into the change:

• Ongoing economic development due to its inclusion in the Columbus metropolitan statistical area, anchored by Fort Benning and the Kia plant.

• Strong finances with operating surpluses projected for fiscal years 2012 and 2013.

• Revenue enhancement efforts.

• The city's population grew about 20 percent, to 33,804, since the 2000 Census.

Lowe said the improved bond rating will lower interest rates on bonds issued by the city and allow it to refinance existing debt at lower rates. On a debt of $10 million, the city would save between $350,000-$450,000 over a 20-year period, Lowe said.

The savings won't be immediately realized, Lowe said, because the city is under a borrowing moratorium and the timing isn't right for refinancing existing debt.

"This is going to help us build more infrastructure for our citizens," Lowe said. "It helps position the city to be able to recruit even more industries and businesses because we have such a strong credit rating."

Local taxpayers will also benefit from the school district being allowed to "piggyback" on the city's improved rating. Lowe said that will result in $438,000 in savings due to lower bond payments.

District 1 Councilman Jim Cannon said administrations before this one contributed to the accomplishment by "moving the ball down the field."

"But we put the points on the board," he said, drawing a laugh from the crowd.

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