November 20, 2012 / 7:06 PM / 5 years ago

TEXT - Fitch rates Mansfield, Texas GOs 'AA'

Nov 20 - Fitch Ratings has assigned an 'AA' rating to the following
Mansfield, Texas (the city) bonds:

--$5 million general obligation (GO) refunding bonds, tax exempt series 2013;
--$3.2 million GO refunding bonds, taxable series 2013;
--$5.6 million combination tax and revenue certificates of obligation (COs), 
series 2013.

The bonds are scheduled for a negotiated sale the week of December 26. GO 
proceeds will be used to refund a portion of the city's outstanding 
tax-supported debt and CO proceeds will finance street improvements. 

In addition, Fitch affirms the following: 

--$95.3 million (pre-refunding) outstanding GO bonds and COs at 'AA';
--$12.5 million Mansfield Economic Development Corporation (EDC) outstanding 
sales tax bonds at 'AA-';
--$12.2 million Mansfield Park Facilities Development Corporation (PFDC) 
outstanding sales tax bonds at 'AA-'.  

The Rating Outlook is Stable.


The GO bonds and COs are secured by a limited ad valorem tax levied against all 
taxable property in the city; the COs are secured further by a pledge of net 
revenues of the city's water and wastewater system, not to exceed $1,000. The 
outstanding EDC and PFDC sales tax bonds are special obligations of each 
corporation and are payable from and secured by a first lien on and pledge of a 
separate 1/2 of 1% sales and use tax levied within the city for the benefit of 
the corporations. Both the EDC and PFDC were formed by the city to promote and 
provide for economic development. 


PRUDENT FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT: The city's policies and stewardship have 
contributed to sound general fund balances in compliance with policy levels. 
Management budgets conservatively and historically achieves operating surpluses.

STABLE LOCAL ECONOMY:  The city's profile is characterized by above-average 
income and relatively low unemployment, resulting in part from an expanding 
employment base.

HEALTHY TAX BASE GROWTH: Access to the broad Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) economy and
regional transportation network has led to strong taxable assessed valuation 
(TAV) growth. Proximity to the DFW metroplex, coupled with the city's ongoing 
development of infrastructure, position it for continuing residential and 
commercial/industrial expansion, the realization of which could lead to positive
rating action.

HIGH OVERALL DEBT: High overall debt includes overlapping debt and reflects the 
significant enrollment-based facility needs of the school districts residing in 
the city. An above-average debt amortization rate contributes to the city's high
carrying costs, consisting of its debt service, pension and other 
post-employment benefits (OPEB) contributions. The city's near term capital 
needs are moderate.

SOUND DEBT SERVICE COVERAGE: The sales tax revenue bond ratings reflect ample 
coverage of maximum annual debt service (MADS) from pledged sales tax 
collections and sound legal protections. 


Mansfield is located within the ninth largest metropolitan area in the nation, 
home to more than a million residents within a 15-mile radius. The city's 
population of nearly 60,000 has more than doubled since the 2000 census. A 
significant amount of developable land remains within Mansfield's 38.6 square 
mile land mass. 


Located in the southeastern portion of Tarrant County, the city is directly 
connected to nearby DFW, the DFW International Airport and surrounding 
communities by a robust and expanding transportation network. The city's five 
industrial parks are home to a reported 115 industries employing 5,000 workers, 
with significant expansion plans recently announced by Klein Tools (manufacturer
of high-quality hand tools) and Mouser Electronics (a Berkshire-Hathaway company
and distributor of electronic parts). 

A growing medical district is evidenced by Methodist Hospital's $180 million 
commitment to facilities within the city, including $27 million of completed 
expansions, a hospital opening in fiscal 2012, and future expansion over 22 
acres. Additional new facilities were opened in fiscal 2012 by the Arlington 
Orthopedic Associates and Women's Health Pavilion, with a third assisted 
living/medical facility under development. Additionally, the city announced that
two hospitals (totaling an approximate $250 million investment) have been slated
for future development.  

Fiscal 2012 building permit values increased 17% year over year led by new 
commercial projects, including retail, restaurants, grocers, and medical 
district expansions. Residential growth continues but remains well below 
prerecession levels. The city reports 273 platted residential lots available for
development and an additional 537 available for potential future development 
among its many master planned communities and subdivisions.  Given its 
infrastructure and proximity to the metroplex, the city is positioned for 
significant growth, the resumption of which could lead to positive rating 


The fiscal 2013 tax base of $5.1 billion is 62% residential, with a growing 
commercial and industrial presence.  TAV expanded by a compound annual growth 
rate (CAGR) of 5.7% between fiscal 2006 and 2013 as new commercial development 
compensated for softness in the residential market. Fitch anticipates the 
magnitude of reported commercial development projects and industrial expansions 
to bode well for continuing tax base growth in the near term. The top ten 
taxpayers comprise a moderate 7.8% of fiscal 2012 TAV. 


The city generally outperforms the budget and maintains sound reserve levels in 
compliance with its policy target (i.e. unrestricted general fund reserves equal
to 25% of the operating budget).  A $1 million (2.9% of expenditures) operating 
surplus net of transfers increased the fiscal 2011 general fund unrestricted 
balance to a strong 24.8% of expenditures and transfers out. Unaudited fiscal 
2012 results report a $1.5 million operating surplus led by strong sales tax and
building permit activity, $650,000 of which will be applied to land acquisition 
in connection with the city's historic downtown revitalization project.  
Management projects continued modest revenue growth and cost management to 
support structural balance and preserve the city's reserves into the foreseeable


High overall debt equal to 10.4% of the city's property values incorporates 
overlapping debt which includes significant debt issuance of rapidly growing 
local school districts.  The city's debt burden on the general fund is also high
at 25.5% of general fund spending and transfers out, reflecting the 
infrastructure growth needs of the city and a rapid debt amortization rate (70% 
retired in 10 years). Fitch anticipates elevated debt levels to persist over the
next five to 10 years in light of continuing growth pressures. 

The city participates in the Texas Municipal Retirement System, with an adequate
fiscal 2011 funded position of 75% based on Fitch's more conservative investment
rate of 7%. The city provides OPEB to retirees for health insurance and fully 
funds its annual required contribution each year; the city also established an 
OPEB trust in 2008. The city's carrying costs, including debt service, pension 
and OPEB contributions are considered high at 36.7% of fiscal 2011 general fund 
expenditures and transfers out. 


The bonds of EDC and PFDC are secured by a gross pledge of separate 1/2-cent 
sales tax revenues. The PFDC is a 4B nonprofit corporation created in 1992 
following the passage of a 1/2 of 1% sales tax. The EDC is a 4A corporation that
was formed in 1997 with the passage of a separate 1/2 of 1% sales tax. The PFDC 
has focused on various parks and recreation projects since its creation, while 
the EDC has helped attract business to the city through location assistance and 
infrastructure improvements.  In addition to sales tax revenues, both 
corporations receive gas royalty monies that are applied to their respective 
mission objectives. 

MADS coverage is sound at 2.3x and 2.7x for PFDC and EDC, respectively, based on
fiscal 2011 sales tax revenues. Following 14.7% CAGR in the six years preceding 
the recession, sales tax collections leveled out in fiscal 2009 and 2010 before 
registering a modest 1.6% gain in fiscal 2011. Management reports a 7.7% 
increase in unaudited fiscal 2012 collections reflecting an improved economy and
the impact of an increasing number of new retail establishments. Fiscal 2013 
sales tax receipts are budgeted at a conservative 1% increase over fiscal 2012 

The city has no near-term borrowing plans for EDC, which should help maintain 
debt service coverage at healthy levels. Management reports a potential $3 
million PFDC debt issue in fiscal 2015 or 2016, which debt will be layered into 
outstanding debt so that the current MADS level will not change.  

Legal provisions for both securities are adequate with a two-pronged additional 
bonds test requiring gross revenues received by the corporations during any 12 
of the preceding 15 months to be 1.35x MADS and 1.5x average annual debt 
service. The reserve requirement for each of these bonds will be cash-funded to 
the IRS standard.  Reserves historically have been funded with surety bonds.   


A favorable demographic profile, notable park system and good community services
contribute to Mansfield's frequent ranking as a desirable city in the U.S. The 
city's median household income is very high at 177% of the U.S. average. An 
expanding employment base contributes to a low unemployment rate of 6.0% for 
August 2012, below the state (7.0%) and national (8.2%) averages for the same 

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