DALLAS -- Moody's Investors Service says it will monitor the Aaa-rated Dallas Independent School District as officials there move to reinstate scores of teachers originally cut to balance the district's $544 million budget for fiscal 1992.
Dallas, the nation's last metropolitan district with a Moody's triple-A rating, changed course after protests by parents, students, and teachers that made national headlines.
But a Moody's executive said the agency had been planning to review operations there even before the furor.
"There's no specific red flag. We weren't looking to shake our finger at anyone," said Steve Levine, assistant vice president at Moody's. "There has been a lot of publicity about their situation, and we are aware of it."
The district is trying to cope with the loss of $47 million under the state's new school finance law. The so-called Robin Hood plan forces Dallas and other property wealthy districts in Texas to share an estimated $400 million a year in taxes with poor districts so that all the state's 1,054 districts have access to the same funding.
Jerry Robinson, senior vice president and manager of public finance at NCNB Capital Markets, the district's financial adviser, said he was not surprised by the 183-word statement from the agency.
"I think Moody's is doing their normal due diligence," he said yesterday. "Obviously, there's publicity, and when there's publicity it is not unusual for analysts to do this."
As for taking any action against the triple-A rating, he said, "That's not going to happen."
Moody's has rated Dallas Aaa since 1973. Standard & Poor's Corp. gives the district a AA-plus.
In a statement issued late Wednesday, Moody's noted that the district has amended its fiscal 1992 budget this week to "authorize additional administrative cost reductions of $930,000 and the utilization of $2.3 million of general fund revenues previously targeted for capital improvements."
The amendments were designed to free up monies so the district could reinstate many of the 257 teaching positions cut by the $544 million budget adopted Aug. 20 by the board. That budget was balanced with a variety of program and personnel cuts and a 17.5% property tax increase.
Earlier this week, Superintendent Marvin Edwards proposed an additional half-percent tax rate increase, but the board rejected that. Instead, they directed him to make additional cuts in the budget so that teachers could be reinstated.
Mr. Robinson said yesterday that the district is studying $1.7 million in cuts in other programs so that 52 additional teaching positions can be reinstated.
"They will find it," he said.
The rating agency noted that the district has had reduced general fund balances in the last few years, expects cash-flow strains to sharpen, and is planning for a sizable bond referendum next spring.
The district may soon seek a vote on a general obligation bond issue of $275 million to pay for pressing capital needs.
"Moody's will continue to closely monitor events affecting the district's financial position, will meet with district officials in the near future, and subsequently undertake a comprehensive review of the outstanding rating of the district," the agency said.