Lake Oswego School District has received a S&P Global's rating of AA+, which district officials say is the highest school district debt rating in the state.
Stuart Ketzler, the LOSD's assistant superintendent of business services, announced the S&P rating last week as the district prepared for a $160 million bond sale approved by voters in May 2017. The bond sale, which will fund deferred maintenance and a new Lakeridge Junior High, among other projects, was scheduled to early Tuesday and last two to three hours.
"Information on the sale was sent to the investment community today and interested investors will start working with their financial advisors to place orders before 9 a.m. next Tuesday," Ketzler said on Wednesday.
The rating lowers the cost to taxpayers over the duration of the bond, district officials said.
"We are grateful for our community's engagement in our schools, our parents' backing and our board of directors' guidance," LOSD Superintendent Heather Beck said. "This is the first step in a multi-year process that demonstrates the district's strong fiscal stewardship of our taxpayers' money.
"I promised during the bond campaign to be transparent and responsible with these funds," Beck said, "and this bond rating sets us up for a successful launch of our bond program."
Bond credit ratings, which represent the credit-worthiness of a corporation or governmental entity, are published by the same credit rating agencies used by investment professionals to assess the probability that a debt will be repaid.
S&P is one of the largest rating agencies in the nation. The only possible S&P rating that's higher than the AA+ received by the LOSD is AAA; the lowest possible rating is a D.
District officials told The Review that factors involved in the decision included:
• The community's support in 2013 of a five-year voter-approved local option property tax levy, as well as the Lake Oswego Schools Foundation's regular contributions to the LOSD and the City of Lake Oswego's one-time, $2 million contribution to the school district in 2011 during the recession;
• "Demonstrated ability to reach institutional consensus regarding cost reductions during down-cycles in state funding, as evidenced by the decision to close schools, implement furloughs and increase class sizes in the early 2010s";
• The district's policy of maintaining a reserve fund ($13.6 million in the 2017-18 adopted budget); and
• The "economic base central to the large and diverse Portland region, with a strong-to-extremely-strong income and wealth profile."
"Our conservative fiscal approach has led to strong community support, which has given us stable financial resources," Ketzler said. "I am so very pleased that S&P gave due recognition to the strong and amazing support our schools receive from our community. I believe that support, certainly measured and quantified numerically by S&P, is the cornerstone of what makes a great community — caring and informed people working together toward a positive common goal."
Lake Oswego School District's bond sale team includes financial advisers Pat Clancy and Duncan Brown of PFM Financial Advisors, bond counsel Jim Shannon and Courtney Dausz of Mersereau Shannon LLP and underwriters Wells Fargo Securities, Piper Jaffray and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.