Fitch Ratings assigned an "A-" rating to South Florida Water Management District, Florida's (the district or SFWMD) $34.2 million special obligation land acquisition refunding bonds, series 2003. The bonds, expected to be insured, are scheduled to price August 26 through negotiation with a syndicate led by Raymond James and Associates. The series 2003B bonds will refund all of the district's series 1993 and a portion of the 1996 special obligation land acquisition bonds. Fitch also affirms the 'A-' rating on the district's approximately $69.8 million in outstanding parity debt. The Rating Outlook is Stable.
The 'A-' rating on the district's special obligation bonds is based on the sound coverage historically provided by pledged revenues, even in years of revenue declines, and the importance to the state of the district's role in preserving environmental quality. Offsetting these strengths is the legislature's ability and past history of altering the tax rates and distribution formulas, as well as the small portion of the taxes available for these bonds.
The district is one of five regional water management districts created by the state in 1972, covering all or part of 16 counties including the cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Fort Myers and a portion of Orlando. Its responsibilities include management and control of waters and related resources within its land area. The district is also responsible for the operation and maintenance of the central and southern Florida flood control project, including Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. In conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the district has embarked on a Comprehensive Everglade Restoration Project, estimated to cost $8 billion over the next 38 years.
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