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U.S. Local Governments Credit Brief: New York School Districts

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U.S. Local Governments Credit Brief: New York School Districts

Overview

New York school districts have demonstrated relatively stable credit quality in recent years, despite risks prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. S&P Global Ratings expects credit quality for New York school districts to remain stable in the medium term. The stability is supported by expected modest yet continued economic growth, predominant reliance on municipality-guaranteed property taxes, and strong budgetary performance despite the maintenance of lower available reserves than most out-of-state peers. In addition, we expect continued general stability within this portfolio due to the injection of federal funds resulting from the American Rescue Plan Act, which will likely allow districts to allocate funds across the next one to three fiscal years.

S&P Global Ratings maintains ratings on roughly 332 school districts. Overall, since March 2020 school district credit quality has remained stable, with only two districts experiencing rating movement due to lower reserves and liquidity. Additionally, eight out of the 332 school districts, or 2.4%, experienced an outlook change to negative, while 325, or 97.9%, have a stable outlook.

Tupperlake Central School District's outlook was changed to negative from stable in October 2020, but was returned to stable in May 2021 due to stabilization of its financial operations and reserve funds as of the end of fiscal 2020. Ticonderoga Central School District was both downgraded to 'A' with a negative outlook from 'A+' due to weakened reserve levels after several years of significant reserve drawdowns due to rising expenses and an additional expected use of fund balance in fiscal 2020. Northern Adirondack Central School District was downgraded to 'A-' from 'A' due to reductions in reserves and very low liquidity levels following two years of deficits. All eight credits that were put on negative outlook experienced two or more years of fund balance drawdowns; Wyandanch Union Free School District was put on negative outlook due to the district's deficit fund balance of nearly $3 million at year-end 2019. The ratings of 13 school districts within the portfolio have been withdrawn because of retirement of those entities' debt obligations and 14 new ratings were added.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic recession created both operational and fiscal challenges for school districts as they transitioned to remote/hybrid instruction beginning March 2020. New York State withheld 20% of its foundational aid to school districts in fiscal 2020, but despite this, most school districts demonstrated an ability to maintain stable finances mainly through significant cost savings on transportation, energy, and extracurricular program expenditures that were budgeted for but did not take place due to the school closures.

Credit Fundamentals
  • Stable revenue environment for the majority of school districts, supported by ad valorem taxes and steady state aid
  • Participation in well-funded state-wide pension plans leading to minimal to moderate pension liabilities
  • Generally strong wealth indicators and good income indicators coupled with strong total reserves
  • Low debt as percentage market value and as a percentage of debt per capita
  • Access to several broad and regional employment bases primarily via several major roadways and rail
  • A moderately improving economy, with solid tax base growth and rising property values
Potential Challenges
  • Limited additional revenue-raising flexibility due to the state's levy cap
  • Resulting from the pandemic, the state made prompt changes to school aid after districts had adopted their budgets, leading to operational and budgetary pressure for some.
  • Low unassigned general fund balances, as required by the state, which leave districts fiscally vulnerable when absorbing changes in budgeted versus state aid allocations or covering expenditures related to unexpected events.

What We're Watching In 2021 And Beyond

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The vast majority of New York school districts we rate are located in inland communities, where the most prominent potential environmental risks are snowstorms or minor flooding. Most school districts have fortified their infrastructure to protect against such risks. Governance factors are an opportunity for New York school districts, reflecting that, as of April 2019, districts can establish a reserve for employer contributions to the Teacher's Retirement System (TRS), up to 2% of their total TRS payroll. The state-administered pension plans are generally well-funded, albeit with assumed discount rates that are high, in our view, which could lead to elevated and volatile costs. In addition, New York school districts generally carry elevated other post-employment benefits liabilities, many of which exceed their annual budget, and they are unable to pre-fund contributions through a dedicated trust, which we view as a governance risk. Furthermore, they experienced a spike in retirements in 2020 (966) up from 2019 (578) and 2018 (628). The legislature is considering a bill that would allow school districts to opt into an early retirement incentive program for eligible employees. This incentive could lead to budgetary savings in salaries for school districts. However there have been teacher shortages noted, particularly in rural and urban areas, which could lead to operational challenges. We will monitor how school districts manage staffing needs as veteran and eligible teachers retire.

Spotlight On Environmental, Social, Governance Factors

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Our analysis and rating actions considered impacts of the pandemic, which we view as a social factor, however this risk is abating and is not viewed as a material credit factor. Over the longer term, we view social risks for the state as being elevated because the state and surrounding region are disproportionately exposed to declining enrollment and affordability concerns, and a changing teaching workforce.

Table 1

New York Schools: Medians
Rating
AAA AA+ AA AA- A+ A A-
Household EBI (%) 192 137 137 109 88 85 86
Market value per capita ($) 278,898 132,807 121,593 91,353 67,272 53,557 63,512
Available general fund (%) 10.6 12.4 9.2 11.9 13.6 12.8 7.9
Debt per capita ($) 5,182 1,455 1,983 1,736 1,544 1,373 1,372
Debt as % market value 1.8 1.0 2.0 2.1 2.0 3.2 2.4
Pension ARC + OPEB as % expense 7.9 8.0 8.2 5.9 5.8 4.2 5.9
EBI--Effective buying income. ARC--Annual required contribution. OPEB--Other postemployment benefits.

Chart 1

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Chart 2

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Table 2

New York School Districts: Ratings List
As of July 1, 2021
This list was prepared by individuals on behalf of the USPF Group of S&P Global Ratings and is current as of July 1, 2021. For the most up to date, accurate, and complete information on any credit ratings referenced in this list, please visit www.standardandpoors.com.
Organization Rating Outlook
Amsterdam Enlarged City Sch Dist A Stable
Arkport Central Sch Dist A Stable
Ausable Vy Cent Sch Dist A Negative
Bath Central School District A Stable
Brasher Falls Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Broadalbin-Perth Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Brocton Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Brushton-Moira Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Cambridge Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Camden Central School District A Stable
Canisteo-Greenwood Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Cassadaga Vy Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Central Valley Central School District A Stable
Copenhagen Central School District A Stable
Crown Point Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Dolgeville Central School District A Stable
Dunkirk City Sch Dist A Stable
Edmeston Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Edwards-Knox Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Ellicottville Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Elmira City Sch Dist A Stable
Enlarged Ogdensburg City Sch Dist A Stable
Fillmore Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Fredonia Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Frewsburg Central School District A Stable
Genesee Valley Central School District (Allegany County) A Stable
Gloversville City Sch Dist A Stable
Granville Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Green Island Union Free School District A Stable
Hamilton Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Hannibal Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Harpursville Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Herkimer Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Hermon-De Kalb Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Heuvelton Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Lisbon Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Lyons Central School District A Stable
Madrid-Waddington Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Maine-Endwell Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Morrisville-Eaton Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Mount Morris Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Newfield Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Niagara Falls City Sch Dist A Stable
Oakfield-Alabama Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Oneonta City Sch Dist A Stable
Parishville-Hopkinton Central School District A Stable
Perry Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Rome City School District A Stable
Romulus Central School District A Stable
Salamanca City School A Stable
Salmon River Central School District A Stable
Sauquoit Valley Central School District A Stable
Scio Central School District A Stable
Spencer-Van Etten Central School District A Stable
Ticonderoga Cent Sch Dist A Negative
Van Hornesville-Owen D. Young Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Waterville Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Watervliet City Sch Dist A Stable
Wells Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Wellsville Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Whitesville Cent Sch Dist A Stable
Hempstead Union Free School District A- Stable
Northern Adirondack Cent Sch Dist A- Stable
Otego-Unadilla Cent Sch Dist A- Stable
Poughkeepsie City Sch Dist A- Stable
Wyandanch Un Free Sch Dist A- Negative
Adirondack Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Afton Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Albany City School District A+ Stable
Alexandria Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Alfred-Almond Central School District A+ Stable
Allegany-Limestone Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Altmar-Parish-Williamstown Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Andes Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Argyle Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Attica Central School District A+ Stable
Auburn City Sch Dist A+ Stable
Averill Park Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Avon Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Bainbridge-Guilford Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Barker Central School District A+ Stable
Beekmantown Central School District A+ Stable
Berlin Central School District A+ Stable
Caledonia-Mumford Central School District A+ Stable
Campbell-Savona Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Canajoharie Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Canaseraga Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Canastota Central School District A+ Stable
Canton Central School District A+ Stable
Cato Meridian Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Cattaraugus-Little Vy Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Central Square Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Charlotte Vy Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Chateaugay Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Chautauqua Lake Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Chazy Union Free School District A+ Stable
Cheektowaga-Maryvale Un Free Sch Dist A+ Stable
Cheektowaga-Sloan Un Free Sch Dist A+ Stable
Chenango Vy Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Cleveland Hill Un Free Sch Dist A+ Stable
Clifton-Fine Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Clinton Central School District A+ Stable
Clymer Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Cohoes City Sch Dist A+ Stable
Colton-Pierrepont Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Corinth Central School District A+ Stable
Cuba-Rushford Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Dalton-Nunda Central School District A+ Stable
Dansville Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Delaware Academy Central School District at Delhi A+ Stable
East Bloomfield Central School District A+ Stable
Elba Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Elmira Hghts Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Fabius-Pompey Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Falconer Central School District A+ Stable
Fonda-Fultonville Central School District A+ Negative
Fort Ann Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Franklin Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Franklinville Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Friendship Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Fulton City Sch Dist A+ Stable
Geneseo Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Georgetown-South Otselic Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Gilbertsville-Mount Upton Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Gorham-Middlesex Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Gouverneur Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Greenville Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Greenwich Central School District A+ Stable
Groton Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Hadley-Luzerne Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Hamburg Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Hammondsport Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Hancock Central School District A+ Stable
Hartford Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Hendrick Hudson Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Highland Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Holland Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Holley Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Hoosick Falls Central School District A+ Stable
Hornell City Sch Dist A+ Stable
Horseheads Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Hudson City Sch Dist A+ Stable
Hudson Falls Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Jefferson Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Johnson City Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Johnstown City Sch Dist A+ Stable
Jordan Elbridge Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Kendall Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Lansingburgh Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Laurens Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Le Roy Central School District A+ Stable
Letchworth Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Liberty Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Little Falls City Sch Dist A+ Stable
Livonia Central School District A+ Stable
Long Lake Central School District A+ Stable
Lyme Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Madison Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Manchester-Shortsville Central School District A+ Stable
Marathon Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Marion Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Marlboro Central School District A+ Stable
Massena Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Mayfield Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
McGraw Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Mechanicville City Sch Dist A+ Stable
Medina Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Middleburgh Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Milford Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Minerva Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Moravia Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Moriah Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Morris Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Morristown Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Mount Vernon City Sch Dist A+ Stable
Newburgh City School District A+ Stable
North Collins Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
North Rose-Wolcott Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
North Syracuse Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Northeastern Clinton Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Odessa-Montour Central School District A+ Stable
Olean Sch Dist A+ Stable
Oneida City Sch Dist A+ Stable
Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central Sch District A+ Stable
Oriskany Central School District A+ Stable
Owego Apalachin Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Peru Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Phoenix Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Pine Valley Central School District A+ Stable
Poland Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Port Byron Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Port Jervis City Sch Dist A+ Stable
Prattsburgh Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Pulaski Central School District A+ Stable
Randolph Central Sch Dist A+ Stable
Red Creek Central School District A+ Stable
Ripley Central School District A+ Stable
Roscoe Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Royalton-Hartland Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Sackets Harbor Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Salem Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Saugerties Central School District A+ Stable
Schodack Central School District A+ Stable
Schoharie Central School District A+ Stable
Schuylerville Central School District A+ Stable
Seneca Falls Central School District A+ Stable
Sharon Springs Central School District A+ Stable
Sherburne-Earlville Cent Sch Dist A+ Negative
Sherman Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Sidney Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Sodus Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Solvay Un Free Sch Dist A+ Stable
South Jefferson Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
South Lewis Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Southern Cayuga Central School District A+ Stable
Southwestern Central School District A+ Stable
Springville-Griffith Inst Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
St. Regis Falls Central School District A+ Stable
Stamford Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Stockbridge Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Sullivan West Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Susquehanna Vy Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Sweet Home Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Thousand Islands Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Tupper Lake Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Unadilla Vy Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Union-Endicott Central School District A+ Stable
Warrensburg Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Waterford-Halfmoon Un Free Sch Dist A+ Stable
Waterloo Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Watkins Glen Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Wayland-Cohocton Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Weedsport Cent Sch Dist A+ Negative
West Canada Vy Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
West Genesee Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
West Valley Central School District A+ Stable
Westfield Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Westmoreland Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Wheatland-Chili Central School District A+ Stable
Wheelerville Union Free School District A+ Stable
Whitehall Central School District A+ Stable
Whitesboro Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Whitney Pt Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Willsboro Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Windham-Ashland-Jewett Central School District A+ Stable
Windsor Cent Sch Dist A+ Stable
Worcester Central School District A+ Stable
York Central School District A+ Stable
Yorkshire-Pioneer Central School District A+ Stable
Ballston Spa Cent Sch Dist AA Stable
Bethlehem Cent Sch Dist AA Stable
Brewster Cent Sch Dist AA Stable
Burnt-Hills Ballston Lakes Cent Sch Dist AA Stable
East Islip Un Free Sch Dist AA Stable
Fairport Cent Sch Dist AA Stable
Fayetteville-Manlius Cent Sch Dist AA Stable
Florida Un Free Sch Dist AA Stable
Freeport Un Free Sch Dist AA Stable
Mattituck-Cutchogue Union Free School District AA Stable
Minisink Valley Central School District AA Negative
Mount Pleasant Central School District AA Stable
Mount Sinai Union Free School District AA Stable
North Colonie Cent Sch Dist AA Stable
Northville Cent Sch Dist AA Stable
Pocantico Hills Cent Sch Dist AA Stable
Putnam Vy Cent Sch Dist AA Stable
Rocky Point Union Free School District AA Stable
Sachem Cent Sch Dist AA Stable
Sewanhaka Comnty High Sch Dist AA Stable
Shoreham-Wading River Cent Sch Dist AA Stable
Skaneateles Cent Sch Dist AA Stable
South Country Central School District AA Stable
Valley Cent Sch Dist at Montgomery AA Stable
Wallkill Cent Sch Dist AA Stable
Washingtonville Central School District AA Stable
Webster Central School District AA Stable
Akron Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Arlington Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Berne-Knox-Westerlo Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Bolton Central School District AA- Stable
Boquet Valley Central School District AA- Stable
Brunswick Central School District AA- Stable
Cazenovia Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Dryden Central School District AA- Stable
East Moriches Un Free Sch Dist AA- Stable
East Rochester Union Free School District AA- Stable
East Syracuse Minoa Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Eastport-South Manor Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Galway Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Gananda Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Hilton Central School District AA- Stable
Homer Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Honeoye Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Hoosic Vy Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Hunter-Tannersville Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Hyde Park Central School District AA- Stable
Indian Lake Central School District AA- Stable
Ithaca City Sch Dist AA- Stable
Johnsburg Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Lafayette Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Lake George Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Liverpool Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Marcellus Central School District AA- Stable
Margaretville Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Monticello Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Naples Central School District AA- Stable
New Rochelle Sch Dist AA- Stable
Pembroke Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Richfield Springs Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Saranac Lake Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Schalmont Central School District AA- Stable
Schroon Lk Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Scotia-Glenville Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Spencerport Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Starpoint Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Stillwater Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Trumansburg Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Tully Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Union Springs Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
Westhill Cent Sch Dist AA- Stable
William Floyd Un Free Sch Dist AA- Stable
Wynantskill Un Free Sch Dist AA- Stable
Longwood Cent Sch Dist AA+ Stable
Niskayuna Cent Sch Dist AA+ Stable
Remsenburg-Speonk Union Free School District AA+ Stable
Saratoga Springs City Sch Dist AA+ Stable
Shenendehowa Central School District AA+ Stable
Yorktown Cent Sch Dist AA+ Stable
Cold Spring Harbor Central School District AAA Stable
Harrison Cent Sch Dist AAA Stable
Pelham Un Free Sch Dist AAA Stable
Plainview-Old Bethpage Cent Sch Dist AAA Stable

This report does not constitute a rating action.

Primary Credit Analyst:Krystal Tena, New York + 1 (212) 438-1628;
krystal.tena@spglobal.com
Secondary Contact:Charlene P Butterfield, New York + 1 (212) 438 2741;
charlene.butterfield@spglobal.com

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