Manatee schools credit outlook upgraded by Fitch

The Manatee County School District’s credit rating outlook was upgraded Tuesday, which officials heralded as good news and an indicator the district is continuing to move in the right direction financially.

Fitch Ratings, a global leader in credit ratings and research, raised the district’s rating to an A- from a BBB+.

“The rating outlook is stable,” a report read.

The credit rating increase is at least the second for the district in the last two years.

“I think a lot of people can take pride in that, including the finance department and management here as well as the audit committee and the internal auditors,” board chairwoman Karen Carpenter said.

Chief financial officer Rebecca Roberts compared the increased rating from Fitch as a similar achievement to an increase in the district’s school grade, as deemed by the Florida Department of Education.

The announcement came before the start of the Manatee County School Board meeting, where the board authorized refinancing the 2016 certificate of participation to lower the interest rate and save the district money.

“We just potentially saved the district $3 million,” Carpenter said. “We’re very happy about that.”

In other financial news, the school board authorized at $28 million tax anticipation note, a short-term loan which helps the district cover expenses until the district receives property tax proceeds.

Last year, the tax anticipation note was for $30 million and Carpenter said when she first joined the board the short-term loan was closer to $50 million.

Because of his career in the banking and financial business, John Colon abstained from all the votes related to the tax anticipation note and the bonds.

In other business Tuesday:

Meghin Delaney: 941-745-7081, @MeghinDelaney