LEWISTON – Lewiston-Porter Central School, which was had the second-worst financial score in the state in January when the State Comptroller’s Office declared it to be under “significant financial stress,” had its bond rating reduced Friday by Moody’s Investors Service.
Moody’s cut Lew-Port’s credit rating from A1 to A2 with a continued negative outlook, because of the district’s declining financial reserves, although Moody’s also said Lew-Port has a “strong, moderately sized tax base with above average wealth and income levels” and a “manageable debt burden” of $26.7 million in general obligation bonds.
Moody’s criticized the district’s decision to appropriate reserve funds to avoid tax increases in past years, in the face of the state property tax cap, declining enrollment, reduced state aid and increasing expenses, especially for employee pensions.
The agency wrote in its report that “it will be difficult for the district to achieve structural balance in the near term given its growing fixed costs and limited revenue raising flexibility.”
Last year, voters defeated a $40 million budget with a 5.52 percent levy increase that would have exceeded the tax cap. After the budget was cut by about $400,000 to bring it below the tax cap, voters approved it on a revote.