DALLAS -- The Dallas Independent School District next month will begin selling a record $275 million of bonds for a five-year capital program that voters strongly approved this weekend.
And even though the district lost its stand-alone triple-A rating this fall, officials expect to back the district's debt with a pledge from the Texas Permanent School Fund, which guarantees top ratings.
Matthew Harden, executive manager of budget, finance , and planning for the district, said a negotiated underwriting team could be named by Dec. 18. The team, he said, would handle the January sale of $186 million of refunding and new-money bonds approved by 68% of those voting Dec. 5.
"We are outlining our selection process now," he said, adding that the district is looking for underwriters with experience and strong capital.
The winning underwriters will have the job of selling $75 million in new-money bonds, while restructuring $79.4 million of Series 1985 bonds and $31.75 million of Series 1986 debt sold as part of the district's last capital program seven years ago.
The district expects three other competitive new-money sales in the next five years, including $50 million in July 1994, and $75 million each in July 1996 and July 1997. The approval of the issue on Saturday maintains the district's record of never having rejected a bond authorization.
Jerry Robinson, senior vice president and manager of public finance at NationsBanc Capital Markets in Dallas, the district's financial adviser, said the debt restructuring will result in present-value savings estimated at $682,700.
However, the restructuring will create a five-year debt service window to help the district keep its pledge to taxpayers that the new bond program would not increase their property taxes through 1997.
"It's all economic," Robinson said of the planned refunding. "We have a very comfortable margin on the tax levy."
He and Harden said that, based on economic and financial assumptions, the current debt service tax rate will not have to rise on the bonds, which are backed by an unlimited tax pledge.
Dallas schools currently levies a tax of 8.65 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to retire $169 million of outstanding debt. That levy is part of the district's overall tax rate of $1.39.
Harden said the district's ability to keep its pledge will depend on the stability of its tax based and the future interest cost for new-money sales planned through mid-1997.
It was the district's slipping assessed valuation that prompted Moody's Investors Service in October to drop the district two notches to Aa. Before the downgrade, the district had held an Aaa since June 1973 and was the last major city district with such a high rating.
Moody's cited a 20% decline in the district's property values over the last five years as a major reason for the downgrade. Wall Street ratings analysts said the tax base is likely to slip again in 1993 before rebounding.
Despite the loss of its stand-alone Aaa status, the district expects to market triple-A rated debt next year by backing the issue with the state's Permanent School Fund.
The fund, a multibillion-dollar trust created in the 1800s, can be pledged to secure payment on Texas school bonds. Dallas never qualified for the cost-free backing because of its stand-alone triple-A and because it was a so-called budget-balanced district, one that did not receive state aid.
Robinson said the state's new school finance law changed that, and now the district expects to seek Permanent School Fund backing, which guarantees a triple-A rating from Standard & Poor's Corp. as well as Moody's.
"We don't expect a loss from an interest cost perspective," he said.
Added Harden, "I'm expecting we're still going to have a favorable response from investors."
Most of the financings will be used to construct new schools, including the Townview Center. That facility has been mandated by a federal judge overseeing the district's desegregation case.
A year ago, the district discussed capital projects in excess of $400 million, but pared them back to the ballot proposal of $275 million in funding. Analysts and officials agreed yesterday that the $275 million approved Saturday resolves more than just the district's most critical needs.
"This was a key hurdle for the district," said Joe O'Keefe, managing director at Standard & Poor's, which assigned an AA-plus to the district. "This will accommodate their capital needs."