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Fitch Rates Florida Dept of Environmental Protection $159MM Revs 'A+'.

Business Editors

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--June 9, 2003

Fitch Ratings assigns an 'A+' rating to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's $158,755,000 Florida Forever revenue refunding bonds, series 2003B. The bonds, to be offered for bids on 18 hours will be due July 1, 2005-13; the bonds are non-callable.

The refunding bonds are issued under a $195 million refunding bond authorization and will refund certain maturities of the series 1994A Preservation 2000 revenue bonds. The refunding bonds are on parity with bonds issued under the $3 billion authorization to continue the state of Florida's program of acquiring land and water areas for restoration, conservation, recreation, water resource development, and preservation. Florida Forever bonds are issued under an amended and restated resolution, on parity with Preservation 2000 bonds. Bonds of both programs, $2.8 billion including the new, are secured by a designated portion of revenues derived from certain excise taxes on documents (related to real estate transfers, bond issuance, and mortgages, notes and other security arrangements, including some exemptions and changes made by the 2002 legislature) and credited to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF). The state, in the Florida Forever resolution amendments, covenanted not to reduce the distribution below the current 62.63% of documentary stamp tax collections, thereby enhancing protection.

Taxes credited to the LATF are limited to $300 million annually for each program, with the transfers for Florida Forever bonds initially at $30 million in fiscal 2001 and increasing annually by $30 million to the $300 million maximum. Additionally, issuance requires 1.5 times (x) coverage of maximum projected debt service by historic revenues, and the first year's debt service must be appropriated by the legislature prior to issuance. Coverage of current projected maximum annual debt service on Preservation 2000 and Florida Forever bonds is now 2.7 times (x) by fiscal 2002 pledged revenues, but future levels will depend on whether distributions to the LATF increase to match the annual $30 million increase in debt service for Florida Forever. Preservation 2000 bonds have a final maturity in fiscal 2013. Collections of documentary stamp taxes in recent years have proven stronger than initially expected, reflecting the state's economic growth, although the source remains narrow and economically driven, and reflecting volatility. The taxes produced $1.57 billion in fiscal 2002, an increase of 19.7% and substantially up from the earlier 4.8% forecast. While a decline of 13% projected in the current year, it has been upwardly revised twice and an increase of 15.7% is projected, underscoring the volatility of the tax. Decreases of 11% and 4%, respectively, are projected for the next two fiscal years, before a return to more normal growth.
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Publication:Business Wire
Geographic Code:1U5FL
Date:Jun 9, 2003
Words:450
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