Miami-Dade schools gets bond rating boost from S&P

Miami-Dade School Board building on Wednesday, July 13, 2016.
Miami-Dade School Board building on Wednesday, July 13, 2016.

The Miami-Dade school district got a significant long-term bond rating improvement from Standard & Poor’s — the first upgrade in more than 20 years.

On Monday, the credit agency announced that it had raised the district’s long-term bond rating from A+ to AA- with a stable outlook. They cited an improved financial situation, measures to control costs and a growing tax base that has recovered from the recession. The school district saw better financial results during the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years after years of deficits, S&P analysts noted, and has achieved “healthy reserves”.

The boost comes shortly after the Miami-Dade School Board authorized a $250 million bond sale at its April meeting. Voters approved the issuance of $1.2 billion in general obligation bonds in 2012 to remodel aging schools, and the district is now almost halfway through spending the money. The bonds are funding four brand-new schools and renovations at more than 280 others.

The rating upgrade “further validates M-DCPS’ sound fiscal practices and effective operations, especially as it relates to the implementation of the General Obligation Bond,” Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said in a statement. “This is a positive trend we will continue throughout the life of the bond.”

The S&P report mentioned concerns about a “dynamic property tax base” in Miami-Dade with incomes that are only average and a school district general fund balance that did not meet Florida’s fund balance requirement as recently as fiscal year 2014.