PHENIX CITY, AL-Standard & Poor’s Corp. is assigning a single ‘A’ rating to this city’s $6.5 million general obligation refunding warrants, which are due Feb 1, 2017, and $7.75 million in similar warrants due March 1, 2013.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonsville, AR, the biggest taxpayer in this city of an estimated 30,000 permanent residents, has helped the municipality broaden its revenue base since opening a Super Wal-Mart store with an estimated 150,000 sf in the late 1990s.

Phenix City relies heavily on retail sales taxes for the bulk of its revenue, Patricia Hunt, the city’s finance director and treasurer, tells A rating from a firm such as Standard & Poor’s is similar to an insurance policy on the warrants, Hunt says.

General obligation warrants typically are 20 years in length and are paid through the city’s general fund. The warrants are expected to sell by the end of the year.

The rating reflects the city’s limited economic base, which is heavily concentrated in manufacturing industries, as well as its below-average income levels, according to Standard and Poor’s. Conversely, Phenix City was recognized for its strong reserve levels and a manageable debt burden.

Phenix City is the economic center of Russell County, AL, just across the Chattahoochee River from Columbus, GA.

The local economic base consists of a mix of retail, healthcare, and manufacturing, particularly in the paper and textile sectors, which have lagged other sectors of the economy in recent years. Per capita income levels in Phenix City are about 30% below the national average, 20% below the rest of Alabama.

Phenix City’s financial performance is good, according to a written statement from Standard & Poor’s. The city generated operating surpluses in each of the fiscal years between 1998 and 2000.

The audited statement for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2000, shows a general fund balance of $5.2 million, or 34% of yearly general fund expenditures, Hunt tells

Sales taxes accounted for about half of the annual operating revenues of $18.4 million for the 2000 fiscal year. Property taxes and miscellaneous fees and charges accounted for most of the remaining revenues.

Public safety, and general governmental functions make up the bulk of the city’s operating budget, which was $18 million in fiscal 2000.

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