On Tuesday, Nov. 7 the East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors approved its first ever issuance of “Green Bonds” ever as part of its 2008 Measure WW regional park and open space bond financing.
In total, the Board of Directors approved issuance of $124.6 million of general obligation bonds, including $50 million dollars in Green Bonds, for both new bonds and refunding of past bonds. The bonds were issued and sold on Nov. 15.
“The Park District is happy to be a trailblazer on Green Bonds,” said Board Director and Board Finance Committee Chair Ayn Wieskamp. “Certified Green Bonds allow investors to put their money toward improving the environment while also benefitting from the tax advantages and stability of municipal bonds.”
“Green Bonds are the new standard in environmentally friendly investing,” added Director Wieskamp.
“Green Bonds” are bonds that are dedicated to projects that reduce greenhouse gases, mitigate for climate changes, or provide other environmental benefits. The bonds received the highest-level grade of GB1 (Excellent) “Green Bonds” by Moody’s Investment Services, a nationally recognized investment rating service. This was the first ever “Green Bond” rating by Moody’s for a park district bond issuance. It was the fourth ever for a municipality in the United States.
“Green Bonds are an emerging financial market,” said Deputy General Manager Ana M. Alvarez. “The Park District is honored to be taking a leadership role in promoting Certified Green Bonds as a fiscally sound investment option, especially for environmentally minded investors.”
The East Bay Regional Park District is the largest regional park district in the nation with over 25 million visitors per year to its 73 parks on 121,000 acres of regional parkland. The Park District manages 55 miles of bay shoreline.
“The Park District has a number of Green Bond type projects in the planning process that will improve the environment and address the impacts of climate change,” said Alvarez “East Bay public parklands are feeling the impacts of a changing climate through erosion, fires, and extreme weather events.”
The Board’s action authorizing issuance of $50 million of “Green Bonds” includes $30 million of a new Measure WW bonds and refinancing of $20 million of past Measure WW bonds.
In 2008, 72% of voters of Alameda and Contra Costa counties approved Measure WW, which authorized the Park District to issue up to $500 million in general obligation bonds to improve local and regional parks, preserve open space, and restore urban creeks and wildlife habitat. To date, $240 million has been issued, including the new $80 million issuance.
Measure WW Bond Refinancing:
On Nov. 7 the Board of Directors also authorized the advance refunding (refinancing) of $44.5 million of past Measure WW bonds. This allows the district to refinance the existing bonds at lower interest rates, thereby saving local taxpayers money. The refinancing will save taxpayers $7.1 million dollars – even better than initial estimates.
Measure WW Bonds Received Aaa and AAA Rating:
The issuance of Measure WW bonds authorized on Nov. 7, including “Certified Green Bonds” and bond refinancing, received a Aaa rating from Moody’s Investor Services and AAA by Standard & Poor's Financial Services – the highest possible ratings by both.
The Aaa and AAA bond ratings allow the Park District’s bonds to be issued at much lower interest rates, saving taxpayers money.
As part of their financial assessment, Moody’s Investment Services and Standard & Poor's Financial Services took a hard very hard look at the Park District’s finances and found the Park District to have strong financial practices and policies.
The East Bay Regional Park District is a system of beautiful public parks and trails in Alameda and Contra Costa counties east of San Francisco Bay, established in 1934. The system comprises 121,000 acres in 73 parks including over1,250 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and nature learning.
Dave Mason, Public Information Supervisor