S&P: South Florida Autism Charter School 2016 Bonds Assigned 'BB' Rating
"The rating reflects our view of the school's stable enrollment profile with a robust waitlist and favorable state funding environment," said S&P Global Ratings credit analyst Gauri Gupta. Other factors include its history of positive operations on full-accrual basis since inception with the expectations that operating margins will continue to improve, and strong liquidity position for the rating category with no expectations to draw down on internal reserves. Partly offsetting these strengths are the school's relatively small headcount, very high debt burden for its size, and construction risk associated with the new building.
The proceeds of the series 2016 bonds will be used to create a campus for SFCAS, which is a charter school focused on children diagnosed to be on the lower performing end of the autism spectrum.
This includes the five-acre property and all soft costs, off - and on-site work, and the construction of a 55,000-square-foot building. When completed, the school portion of the campus will serve 300 students annually. The school plans to add a "center" that will serve thousands in the greater autism community through vocational and behavioral programs, OT, PT, and Speech services and the training of generations of future teachers. At this time, the bond proceeds will not be used for costs related to the construction of the "center."
SFACS is in Hialeah, the state's sixth-largest city, in the South Florida metropolitan area. The school's primary service area is Miami-Dade and Broward counties, each of which accounts for 50% of the student population. For fall 2015, SFACS had 176 students enrolled in K-12 grades. Currently there are nine students to each classroom and certain grade levels have two classrooms. Enrollment has been growing steadily from 99 students in fall 2012 to current levels.
"The stable outlook reflects our view that during the one-year outlook period, the school will maintain stable enrollment, generate positive operating results, and maintain liquidity," added Ms. Gupta. We also expect the school to successfully complete construction of the new building and begin operations at the new site starting in fall 2017, as projected by management.