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LINCOLN COUNTY, NC-The Fitch-rated bonds for Lincoln County are scheduled for sale Oct. 24, 2000. This offering is the first installment of a $36-million bond authorization, proceeds of which will fund construction of a new elementary and high school and expansion of existing school facilities. After the current offering, $28.5 million of general obligation school bond authorization will remain, which are expected to be issued by 2002.

Fitch has also assigned an AA rating to the $39.7 million in outstanding debt, the first time the agency has rated the county’s debt. The ratings are based on Lincoln’s strong financial position, low debt levels and diversifying economy, which benefit from its proximity to Charlotte.

The county’s revenue base is somewhat diverse, dominated by property taxes, local option sales taxes and governmental aid. Human services, education and public safety dominate operating expenditures.

The county has maintained sizable general fund balances. As of June 30, 1999, unrestricted, unreserved balances equaled 16.5% of revenues. Balances have grown steadily over the last three years on the advice of the local Government Commission. County officials do not have a precise fund balance goal but expect to continue to build balances over the next few years.

Lincoln County, with a population of around 60,000, is in the western portion of North Carolina, northwest of Mecklenburg County. Growth has been steady through the ’90s, with a 17% increase since the last census. Student enrollment has grown consistently 2% to 3% through this period and is expected to continue to do so over the next five years.

The county has recently made improvements to its sewer system and built a new jail, but has no formal capital improvement plan beyond what is to be spent on new and expanding school facilities. The rural character of the county is beginning to change as residential and commercial growth in the eastern portions of the county are turning the area around and near Lake Norman into a commuting suburb of Charlotte.

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