Fitch Ratings affirms AA+ ratings on county revenue bonds amid coronavirus pandemic

Projections for Sarasota County suggest continued tax-based growth supported by current and future development projects, Fitch says

Image from the Fitch Ratings website

On Oct. 27, Fitch Ratings affirmed AA+ ratings on both Sarasota County’s infrastructure sales surtax (IST) revenue bonds and second guaranteed entitlement (SGE) revenue bonds, the county has announced.

The county has experienced some decline in unemployment and tourism because of the impacts of the novel coronavirus, “which has generated some uncertainty around bond revenues,” a Fitch commentary says. “However, projections for Sarasota County suggest continued tax-based growth supported by current and future development projects,” the release adds.

The approximately $14.8 million in SGE revenue bonds remain strong with a stable outlook, the release continues.

The $61.2-million IST bonds, which will remain under surveillance, “received a negative outlook due to economic shortfalls from COVID-19 impacts,” the release said. Uncertainty surrounding the bonds’ revenue collections is predicted to recover, with revenues resuming in a post-pandemic period, Fitch Ratings reported.

The IST bonds are repaid by portions of the county’s 1-cent infrastructure sales tax revenue, the release explains. The IST bonds will mature in October 2024, the county news release adds.

The surtax, which will expire in December 2024, will be considered for renewal in 2022, the release points out.

“Fitch Ratings releases bond ratings and surveillances bi-annually to determine the county’s perceived worthiness for borrowing, similar to an individual credit score,” the county news release says. “Higher bond ratings are typically accompanied by a lower interest rate and tend to produce a lower yield. Revenue bonds help to fund capital projects and reflect the county’s performance for budget management,” the release explains.

To read Fitch Ratings’ complete analysis of the county’s SGE and IST bond ratings, visit fitchratings.com.

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