Feb 28 - Fitch Ratings has affirmed the following ratings of Tamarac, FL
--$1.3 million general obligation (GO) bonds, series 1992 and 1998 at 'AA';
--$13.9 million capital improvement bonds, series 2005 at 'AA-';
--$4.5 million sales tax revenue bonds, series 2009 at 'AA-'.
The Rating Outlook is Stable.
In addition, Fitch has withdrawn its 'AA-' rating on the city's capital
improvement bonds, series 2004, as these bonds have been prefunded or escrowed.
The GO bonds are general obligations of the city for the payment of which the
city's full faith and credit and unlimited taxing power are irrevocably pledged.
The capital improvement revenue bonds are secured by the city's covenant to
budget and appropriate available non-ad valorem revenues in its annual budget.
Such covenant is cumulative and shall continue until all payments of principal
and interest on the bonds shall have been budgeted, appropriated, and actually
The sales tax revenue bonds are secured by the half-cent local option sales tax
with a secondary pledge to covenant to budget and appropriate non ad-valorem
revenues to pay debt service. The bonds are also secured by an FGIC surety.
KEY RATING DRIVERS
STRONG FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT: The 'AA' GO rating reflects the city's strong
financial management, robust reserves and manageable carrying costs, which help
to offset the limited local economy.
BELOW-AVERAGE ECONOMIC PROFILE: The city's local economy is limited, as it
functions predominately as a residential community with modest economic
development opportunities. Wealth levels and other economic indicators compare
unfavorably to state and national averages.
MODERATE DEBT; WEAK PENSION: Overall debt levels are expected to remain
manageable despite the recent increase in the city's variable-rate debt profile.
Pension funding levels are on the weaker side.
APPROPRIATION RISK: The 'AA-' rating on the capital improvement bonds is based
on the general credit characteristics of the city, as well as the city's
covenant to budget and appropriate (CB&A) its diverse mix of non ad-valorem
revenues. Legal provisions for the bonds are adequate.
DOUBLE-BARREL: The 'AA-' rating on the sales tax bonds reflects the pledge of
sales tax revenues and the secondary CB&A pledge of non-ad valorem revenues in
an amount sufficient to satisfy debt service. Given the sales tax bonds'
double-barrel pledge, if at any point in the future the creditworthiness of
either security diverges, the rating on the bonds should always reflect the
higher of the two securities.
LESSENED FINANCIAL FLEXIBILITY: Any notable deterioration in financial reserves
could lead to a negative rating action due to the weak and vulnerable nature of
the underlying economy reflected in protracted tax base declines and heightened
PLEDGED REVENUE SOFTENING: Should pledged revenues decline materially and thus
significantly reduce coverage for the city's capital improvement and sales tax
bonds, downward rating pressure would result.
Tamarac, with an approximate population of 61,540, is located in northwest
Broward County (GO bonds rated 'AAA' by Fitch).
PREDOMINATELY RESIDENTIAL ECONOMY
The city was created in 1963 as a residential retirement community. While it
remains primarily residential, recent economic developments have begun to
diversify the tax base. Convergys Customer Management CP (950 employees),
University Hospital (680), and City Furniture (550) represent some of the city's
largest employers. Fitch does not consider the tax base concentrated, as top
taxpayers, including an electric utility and a shopping center, represent a
moderate 9.9% of total assessed value (TAV).
Tamarac's unemployment rate (8.1% as of November 2012) has fallen notably from
that of the year prior (10.8%), but remains elevated relative to the nation's
(7.4%). Favorably, this improvement can be attributed to a growing employment
base (2.3% year-over-year) coupled with a shrinking labor force (-0.7%). Wealth
indicators for the city compare unfavorably to state and national averages; the
city's median household income equals 88% of the state's and 79% of the
SIGNIFICANT TAX BASE LOSSES
Tax base losses suffered as a result of the housing crisis have been substantial
in Tamarac. Since the housing market's peak in fiscal 2008, the city's TAV has
declined by 43%, dropping from $4.4 billion to $2.5 billion as of fiscal 2012.
Though declines appear to be moderating, they will continue through fiscal 2013,
with an annual loss of 2.3%.
City management has sought to mitigate the impact of these declines through tax
rate hikes; however, these increases have remained below the revenue-neutral
rates. As a result, property taxes, which represent approximately 40% of general
fund revenues, have declined by $5 million or almost one-quarter since fiscal
2008. As of fiscal 2013, the city's tax rate of 7.3 mills is comfortably below
the state's statutory 10-mill cap and competitive for the region.
MAINTENANCE OF FINANCIAL FLEXIBILITY
The city has augmented its general fund reserves for at least the past six
fiscal years, building unreserved / unrestricted fund balance from $15.7 million
(34.7% of spending) to $26.1 million (61.5% of spending). Liquidity also
increased during this time, with cash and investments covering liabilities a
strong 27.6x at the end of fiscal 2011.
These positive results have been achieved through a combination of revenue
enhancements and expenditure reductions. Tamarac has shown a willingness to
increase its millage rate in the face of declining housing values, and in fiscal
2011, the city implemented a public service tax for electricity (at the maximum
rate), generating an additional $3.1 million in annual revenues. Comprehensive
spending cuts have also been made over the past several years, including layoffs
and an elimination of temporary staff. The city reports no layoffs in fiscal
2012 or 2013.
Unaudited fiscal 2012 results show a $2.6 million (5.4% of spending) draw on
fund balance for capital expenditures and the purchase of green space. Fitch
notes that this represents a modest improvement to budget, as a $3.1 million
fund balance appropriation was budgeted. The adopted fiscal 2013 budget includes
a $700,000 fund balance appropriation for contingency. Fitch does not believe
these planned reductions will materially reduce the city's financial
MANAGEABLE CARRYING COSTS, ELEVATED VARIABLE-RATE EXPOSURE
Overall debt levels are moderate at $2,580 per capita and 4.3% of market value
(MV). Amortization of outstanding principal is moderate, with 63% retired within
10 years. As is common in Florida, where GO bonds require voter approval, the
majority of the city's outstanding debt is in the form of revenue bonds.
Debt service and retirement benefit contributions total $11.7 million or a
manageable 16.9% of fiscal 2011 governmental (less capital) fund spending.
Pension contributions to the city's four plans represent the bulk of these
annual costs, with aggregate annual required contributions (ARC) totaling $7.6
million. Debt service represented $4 million or an affordable 5.8% of
The city's elevated variable-rate profile is related to the recent issuance of a
variable-rate redevelopment revenue note. With a fiscal 2011 par of $13.7
million, the note represents one-third of the city's direct debt burden; Fitch
considers a variable rate exposure greater than 25% of direct debt to be high.
The city initially issued the note as a variable-rate line of credit with RBC
Bank. The line of credit will either be paid down or will convert to a
variable-rate term loan in March 2014 going through 2021; no principal amount is
due prior to conversion.
WEAK PENSION FUNDING LEVELS
The city administers four separate single-employer defined benefit pension
plans, for which the aggregate unfunded liability totaled $49.5 million or a
moderate 1.3% of MV. On a combined basis, the city's four plans have a weak
funded ratio of 64% (using a 7% investment rate of return). Favorably, the city
reduced its long-term liability for the firefighters plan in fiscal 2012 through
increases in employee contributions and reductions in benefits. These changes
are expected to reduce the fiscal 2013 ARC by $400,000.
The city provides an implicit subsidy for other post-employment benefits, which
it funds on a pay-as-you-go basis. As of fiscal 2010, the unfunded liability was
$2 million or a modest 0.1% of MV.
SALES TAX GROWTH ENHANCES DEBT SERVICE COVERAGE
Sales tax revenues grew 10% from fiscal 2010 through 2012, increasing coverage
from an adequate 1.8x to a sound 2.2x. Projections for fiscal 2013 show a 2.4%
decrease, reducing coverage to 2.1x. Pledged sales tax revenues proved resilient
under Fitch's different stress scenarios, as they could decline by over 50% and
still provide 1x coverage. The ABT requires 1.25x coverage, and the city has no
plans for additional leverage.
BROAD REVENUE BASE AVAILABLE FOR CB&A DEBT SERVICE
Non-ad valorem revenues are significant relative to debt service and are diverse
in nature. Available NAV revenues have posted consecutive annual gains of 5%
since fiscal 2010. Additional issuance is restricted by a fairly strict
anti-dilution test. Moreover, Fitch notes that ample general fund reserve levels
provide further debt service cushion for these bonds.
Additional information is available at 'www.fitchratings.com'. The ratings above
were solicited by, or on behalf of, the issuer, and therefore, Fitch has been
compensated for the provision of the ratings.
In addition to the sources of information identified in Fitch's Tax-Supported
Rating Criteria, this action was additionally informed by information from
Creditscope, University Financial Associates, S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index,
IHS Global Insight, National Association of Realtors.
Applicable Criteria and Related Research:
--'Tax-Supported Rating Criteria' (Aug. 14, 2012);
--'U.S. Local Government Tax-Supported Rating Criteria' (Aug. 14, 2012).
Applicable Criteria and Related Research
Tax-Supported Rating Criteria
U.S. Local Government Tax-Supported Rating Criteria