Moody's raises credit rating on Tampa's solid waste bonds

Published Nov. 12, 2014

TAMPA — For the fourth time this year, a major bond-rating agency has smiled on the credit-worthiness of Tampa City Hall.

Moody's Investors Service this week raised its rating on Tampa's solid waste revenue bonds from A3 to A2.

A higher rating allows the city to hold down its costs by borrowing money at lower interest rates.

"Our region's economic stability begins at City Hall," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in an announcement about the upgrade. And that, he added, means creating economic opportunities that will lead to new jobs and foster innovation.

"To do that, the city must be fiscally sound," he said. When a rating agency upgrades Tampa's debt, it reflects how hard choices the city has had to make help ensure its long-range sustainability, he said.

In the case of the solid waste department, that includes the decision made in early 2012 to raise solid waste collection rates five times over a five-year period.

At the end of those increases in 2016, businesses will be paying 76 percent more for city garbage service than they did in early 2012. Residential customers will be paying 38 percent more than they did before.

City officials said the increases, the first since 2005, were needed because the solid waste department faced the possibility of an operating deficit and the potential default on more than $100 million in bonds.

Tampa's strengths, according to Moody's analysis, include the rate hikes, the fact that the city controls how nearly all of its waste is disposed of and an improving local economy that is expected to outperform the nation over the near term. Plus, it said, city officials are looking at operating efficiencies that could help hold down costs.

In July, Fitch Ratings raised its rating on Tampa's water and sewer bonds from AA+ to AAA.

In September, Standard & Poor's raised its rating on what's considered the city's general credit from AA+ to AAA, its highest for municipalities, and its rating on Tampa's occupational license revenue bonds from AA to AA+.

Contact Richard Danielson at or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times