Menlo Park Fire District bond ratings get kudos in Wall Street Journal article

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on March 11, 2010

When everything on the internet is free, it becomes a difficult to post something that’s behind a “paywall.” But the fact that the Menlo Park Fire District bonds were featured in today’s Wall Street Journal seems impossible not to note. If you’re not a subscriber, here’s the gist.

The article by reporter Cari Tuna explains: “California’s main debt rating was recently downgraded and many of the state’s public agencies have struggled to secure stellar bond ratings in the recession. But the Menlo Park Fire Protection District last year earned a superior AA-plus rating from Standard & Poor’s for two bond sales.

“In a community already supported by a strong property-tax base, securing the premium rating also was the handiwork of Michele Braucht, who joined the district in 2006 as director of administrative services. Under Ms. Braucht, the agency revamped a mom-and-pop approach to its finances by taking control of its funds from the county treasurer and implementing a more formal budget, among other moves.

“The upshot: Menlo Park Fire was able to use its premium rating to raise $13 million through two sales of three-year to 30-year fixed-rate bonds in December. The funds helped pay for new administrative offices, firehouse renovations and land for future expansions.”

Later in the article Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman says that “officials paid little attention to the district’s finances before Ms. Braucht’s 2006 arrival.” The article also notes that the Fire District dodged a bullet by having withdrawn from a Lehman Brothers fund that collapsed in 2008.

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