After a successful meeting in San Francisco regarding the sale of the district’s first series of Measure BB bonds, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) has received a bond rating increase from Aa3 to Aa2. Bonds rated Aa2 and Aa3 are judged to be of high quality by all standards. Together with the Aaa group, they comprise what are generally known as high grade bonds.

In mid-September, superintendent Dianne Talarico, board of education president Kathy Wisnicki, deputy superintendent Tim Walker and interim chief financial officer (CFO) Steve Hodgson traveled to San Francisco to meet with Moody’s Investors Service, considered one of the premiere bond rating agencies in the nation.

Following the meeting, Moody’s raised the district’s rating from an Aa3 to an Aa2, placing the district in the ranks of other highly-rated districts such as the Beverly Hills, Newport-Mesa and Palo Alto school districts.

“It is very unusual for a school district to improve on its bond rating,” said Talarico. “It is much more common for districts to have to fight to keep their rating from falling.”

Moody’s cited the following reasons for raising the district’s bond rating:

— the district’s improved finances;

— the strong tax base of the communities of Santa Monica and Malibu; and

— the strong community support.

“I take this as a strong affirmation of the strength of our Malibu and Santa Monica volunteer community,” said Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) Council president Rebecca Kennerly. “We know that parent and community involvement improves not only the educational experience of our students, but enhances our communities as a whole. It is extremely gratifying to see a financial rating service put a number to all of that extraordinary effort.”

This upgrade will save the district’s taxpayers money over the life of this first series of bonds, and additional savings on future bond sales to follow, said a district official.

Measure BB was a $268 million construction bond affirmed by the voters in November 2006, with focus on improving the health, safety and technology of Santa Monica and Malibu schools.

Construction is anticipated to commence in 2008-2009.