Bond ratings boon for Metroplex

Standard & Poor’s gives A+ rating, alongside Moody’s A1 rating

— Gillen said Metroplex is likely to announce a bond sale date soon. The bond ratings were updated due to the impending bond issuance.

Both agencies credited strong sales tax growth and a strengthening economy for the ratings issued.

“Sales tax revenues have rebounded to the highest levels the county has ever experienced,” Moody’s said in its report. “Management forecasts that revenues will grow at 2.5 percent annually going forward, a somewhat conservative number given that fiscal 2012 receipts are 3.1 percent over fiscal 2011 year to date.”

Metroplex receives 0.5 percent of the county sales tax, of which 70 percent is used for projects and the remaining 30 percent is handed over to municipalities. The local share of funding is distributed according to the population of each municipality.

The county in June 2003 had increased the sales tax by 0.5 percent to account for the authority’s funding. Originally, sales tax was only increased by 0.25 percent.

Sales tax totaled almost $7.8 million in fiscal 2011, according to S&P, and since the authority was created in 1998, the county has held “healthy sales tax revenue increases,” with three years holding declines.

Fiscal 2008 held the most recent sales tax revenue decline, totaling 6.1 percent, which S&P attributed to the national recession. Since 2005, sales tax revenue has increased 12.5 percent. Both reports said the authority “conservatively” estimated revenues to increase in fiscal 2012, falling around $8 million.

Metroplex had projected sales tax revenue to increase by 2.5 percent, but fiscal 2012 earnings already exceed last year’s earnings to date by 3.5 percent, Moody’s said.

Moody’s projected the county’s economy “will continue to strengthen as a result of economic development and a reversal of population decline.” Moody’s report also said the county holds an unemployment rate of 8 percent as of May 2012, which is lower than the state average of 8.6, but is “double the historical averages for the county.”

Both reports also accounted for Metroplex’s plans to issue between $7 to $10 million in new debt by the summer of 2013. Gillen said $5 million would go towards General Electric’s advanced manufacturing battery facility in Schenectady. The remainder accounts for “additional projects” Metroplex is looking at, Gillen said.

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