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Downgrades to KS School District Debt Ratings Loom as Cash Reserves Dwindle

Guide to bond classifications used by the 3 primary rating agencies (Image Credit: The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Credit rating agencies are keeping an eye on the legislative debate in Kansas over funding of K-12 schools as more districts dip into reserve funds to offset state cuts. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Gardner-Edgerton school district in Johnson County recently had its debt rating reduced from AA- to A+ after it wiped out its reserve fund of $3.3 million. Analyst Sarah Smaardyk of Standard & Poor's says the amount of reserves plays a major role in the bond rating her company assigns to a district. Smaardyk says there has been a trend over the past couple of years of districts drawing down their reserves in response to cutbacks by the state. Republican House Speaker Mike O'Neal says data indicate school district cash reserves are growing, not shrinking.

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