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Norwalk touts AAA bond rating affirmation

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NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk has retained its Triple A bond rating, the City said in a news release.

All three major rating agencies, Moody’s Investors Service, S&P Global Ratings, and Fitch Ratings have again blessed Norwalk with the highest ratings they award, before the City’s latest bond sale scheduled for Thursday, the release said. Norwalk expects to issue about $46 million Series A tax- exempt and $46 million Series B taxable bonds to fund capital projects and replace higher interest rate loans.

In late June, Norwalk Chief Financial Officer Henry Dachowitz said Norwalk could save $1.2 million by reissuing up to $47 million in bonds at the current interest rate.

Mayor Harry Rilling, in Tuesday’s news release, said, “It is welcome news that we once again received these top-tier financial ratings. Thanks to fiscal responsibility, strong management, and healthy reserves, we are well-positioned to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic with minimal fiscal impact.”

The ratings agencies issued “a thorough, objective, and independent analysis of the city’s financial operations and credit strength, with each commenting on the City’s flexibility moving forward,” the news release said, offering quotes:

  • Moody’s Investors Service states, “The Aaa rating reflects Norwalk’s sizeable tax base, supported by diverse taxpayers and employers and ongoing residential and commercial development. It also reflects the city’s sound financial operations and healthy reserves and liquidity, which are the result of conservative fiscal practices and reliance on stable property taxes.”
  • S&P Global Ratings states, “The rating is supported by the city’s very strong economy, with a growing and wealthy tax base…We believe the city’s positive financial operations over the past several years and improved reserve position, backed by very strong management conditions and manageable retirement costs and liabilities, provide additional rating stability. The stable outlook reflects our view of the city’s very strong budgetary flexibility, conservative budgeting, and very strong management conditions.”
  • Fitch Ratings states, “Fitch expects the City of Norwalk will maintain healthy financial flexibility throughout economic cycles, consistent with a history of strong operating performance and sound reserves.”

 

Rilling said, “We charted through some unprecedented waters over the last 16 months, and I am proud that we kept services, programs, and projects running at a high level. As a result of our strategic planning and conservative budgeting over the last several years, we are able to continue to move forward with much-needed projects despite a global pandemic. Norwalk is on the move as we continue to make future investments in our community.”

Norwalk Communications Director Josh Morgan explained that the Series B bonds, the taxable bonds, would be used for refunding older bonds with higher interest rates.

“We are refunding issues that were originally borrowed in 2017 and 2018, which at that time, we thought were very good rates, generally, in the range of 3 to 4%. However, market rates are so low, the 10-year Treasury rates today are about .95%. And the … the municipal rates for 30-year bonds are 1.5%,” Dachowitz said in May.

The 2017/18 bonds were issued at just under 3% and “we did not expect to be able to refinance them at the time they were issued,” said consultant Bill Lindsay. “We’re happy to say that there’s an opportunity to save a significant amount for the city.”

The Series A bonds tax-exempt bonds are for capital projects, such as school renovations and athletic field improvements.

Morgan explained Tuesday that municipalities “are not able to refinance old bonds until they are callable – a time when we have the right to redeem bonds before fully mature. Usually that is 10 years, and then we can issue new tax-free bonds at lower interest rates and buy the old ones if the market analysis says that will generate savings.”

He said:

“Before 2017, we were able to do an advance refunding (i.e. not having to wait the 10 years) and use tax-exempt bonds to pay the older ones. However, the Trump Tax Plan from 2017 eliminated that possibility.

“However, we can still use taxable bonds for refunding purposes. Usually it doesn’t make fiscal sense, but given the favorable market conditions, the taxable bonds will still generate taxpayer savings.”

 

“We’ve been doing refundings ever since I got here two years ago,” Dachowitz said in June. “We did one refunding two years ago, we did two different refundings last year, as rates kept coming down. Rates went up for six months last fall, and starting January, February, they started coming down again.”

Comments

5 responses to “Norwalk touts AAA bond rating affirmation”

  1. Bryan Meek

    The very same agencies had Enron at investment grade 4 days before it collapsed.

  2. Bryan Meek

    Refunding of debt is not some stroke of genius that only started happening in Norwalk just two years ago. It’s as old as JP Morgan and has been going on long before Mr. Daschowitz even knew where Norwalk was on a map.

  3. Sarah McIntee

    Happy news. Maybe our schools can receive the funding they need to retain the gains they have made the past several years.

  4. Taxpayer

    @Sarah M. What gains are you talking about specifically? From where I sit, it’s the same ole. Thank you.

  5. Great news for Norwalk! We have indeed navigated through rough and changing seas relatively unscathed during an unprecedented global pandemic. A team of people and cooperating leaders who know and love Norwalk rose to the occasion. It’s not over yet. I appreciate and sense the care, savvy and flexibility in this coordinated leadership formula that has kept us safe. The ship is not leaking. It is repairing while sailing. I am relieved. Our heartfelt prayers of Thanksgiving to you who have cooperated so well to keep us safe.

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