Municipal Bond Sales Hit Record In 2010 — States and local municipalities sold more debt in 2010 than any prior year, boosted in large part by sales of taxable Build America Bonds before the program expires at the end of this month. Sales of municipal bonds rose to $424.8 billion this year, topping the prior record of $424.2 billion set in 2007, Thomson Reuters said Tuesday. Nearly a third of the sales — $116.3 billion — were BABs, a federally-subsidized form of taxable muni bonds that issuers have liked. In 2009, municipal bond sales totaled $406.8 billion
Greece’s Debt Ratings Put On Watch by Fitch for Possible Downgrade to Junk – Greece may have its credit rating cut to non-investment grade by Fitch Ratings within six weeks after a review of the nation’s “fiscal sustainability.” The assessment will focus on government measures to lower the budget deficit, the economic outlook and the “political will and capacity of the Greek state” to push through austerity measures, the company said in a statement today. Greece is rated BBB- at Fitch, its lowest investment-grade rating. Greece, the first euro-area nation to seek international aid this year, already has non-investment grade ratings at Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s.
EU’s Rehn Vows To Contain Debt "Forest Fire" (Reuters) – The European Union’s top economic official said the bloc needs to keep its options open about the possibility of issuing a common euro zone bond to fight its debt crisis, an idea that Germany publicly opposes. Olli Rehn, the EU’s economic and monetary affairs commissioner, told Reuters Insider Television in an interview on Tuesday that the European debt crisis was akin to a "forest fire," and said the EU was determined to contain the fire. "We will do whatever it takes to safeguard the financial stability in Europe," said Rehn, who was in Beijing for annual EU-China trade talks. "I’m certain that economic recovery in Europe is solid and sustainable. We will contain the financial turbulence so that it will not erode the foundation of the recovery." On the chance of the EU expanding the size of its fund used to bail out euro zone countries, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), Rehn hinted discussions were still ongoing.
Mayors Issue Annual Report on Hunger, Homelessness in 27 Major Cities – The issues of hunger and homelessness still remain major challenges in U.S. cities according to a U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) report on the status of Hunger and Homelessness in 27 cities in America (listed below) that was released today by the U.S. Conference of Mayors on a news conference call. “Each year, the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ report helps us understand the state of homelessness in our communities, as well as how communities are responding” “While there is currently an historic effort to restore America’s economy, the effects of hunger and homelessness are clearly evident in America’s cities and urban centers. This is why mayors have been so proactive in supporting and encouraging local food programs and why federal programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) are so critical,” said Asheville, NC Mayor Terry Bellamy who chairs the USCM Hunger and Homelessness Task Force and participated in the press conference call. “The ‘food stamp’ program is an integral safety net for hungry families in our cities. Mayors want to ensure that the recent cuts made to the food stamp program are restored; and we support the Administration’s efforts in this regard. With respect to addressing homelessness, collaboration is essential.
Maryland Considering Cuts To Education Funding – Gov. Martin O’Malley is considering a 5 percent across-the-board cut in state aid for public education.
State Budget Secretary T. Eloise Foster has proposed the cut, which the governor’s office says would save more than $200 million. Maryland is facing a $1.3 billion budget shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year.
The possible 5 percent cut was revealed in a letter from Foster to Prince George’s County Schools Superintendent William Hite, who has asked the state for an additional $139 million in funding. Foster notes that Prince George’s receives more education funding than any other jurisdiction in Maryland.
Colorado’s Assessed Property Values Projected To Drop For The First Time Since The Late 1980S – Assessed property values in Colorado are expected to fall for the first time since the late 1980s. The latest forecast from legislative economists projects that overall assessed property values will drop 5.3 percent this year. Assessed values are expected to dip another 6.9 percent next year. The report blames a drop in oil and gas prices, the economic downturn and the slow real estate market. The 1980s decline was blamed on the oil bust and the savings-and-loan collapse. Property taxes help fund school districts and The Denver Post reports that the latest decline will cost the state. According to the forecast, lawmakers, already facing a budget shortfall of up to $1 billion, will have to come up with another $140 million to subsidize schools.
Hay Springs Schools will move to 4-day week – The Hay Springs school board voted unanimously last week to move to a four-day school week for the 2011-12 academic year. Superintendent Steve Pummel said the switch will save the district money and should have attendance and academic benefits as well. State aid to education will fall drastically over the next two years as stimulus funds run out, and districts across the state are preparing for 10-20 percent in cuts. Hay Springs has already taken steps to reduce its approximately $3 million a year budget. The district closed a rural school last year, sold an empty theater building the school used for limited storage, sold extra busses and went from two offices to one and from three libraries to one.
Miami-Dade Mayor Faces Recall After Property Tax Raised to Balance Budget – Carlos Alvarez, mayor of Miami-Dade County, Florida’s largest municipal borrower, faces a recall election after opponents gathered sufficient signatures to trigger a new election, the court clerk said. The drive to recall Alvarez came after the county raised the property-tax rate to balance its fiscal 2011 budget. The county commission must call an election in 45 to 90 days under the county charter, Miami-Dade joins Omaha, Nebraska and Chattanooga, Tennessee in mayoral recall attempts after proposed levy increases. The increase in the property-tax rate follows a 22 percent slump in the county’s taxable-property values from 2007 to 2010, according to documents provided by the property appraisers’ office. The county closed budget gaps of $1 billion in the past four years as revenue declined, Alvarez said.