Fitch Ratings has affirmed its 'AA-' rating on Miami-Dade County, FL $25 million outstanding solid waste system revenue refunding bonds, series 2015.

Fitch has also assessed the county solid waste department's standalone credit profile (SCP) at 'aa-'. The SCP represents the credit profile of the department's solid waste system (the system) irrespective of its relationship with and the credit quality of, the county (Issuer Default Rating, AA/Stable).

The Rating Outlook is Stable.


Entity / Debt



Miami-Dade County (FL) [Waste]

Miami-Dade County (FL) /Solid Waste Revenues/1 LT






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Bonds are secured by net revenues of the county's solid waste system. A debt service reserve fund is funded with cash and a surety bond.


The 'AA-' bond rating and 'aa-' SCP reflect the system's strong revenue defensibility including a diversified revenue base from which close to 60% is derived from a residential collection fee charged on the property tax bill, midrange operating risk and very low leverage. Debt service coverage on outstanding obligations has been solid, and surplus revenues have built up cash reserves to robust levels, which have supported capital and maintenance efforts.

The system's service area, which includes the unincorporated area of the county and a number of municipalities, has experienced rapid economic and population growth. Growth is expected to continue but at a more moderate pace in the medium term. Since 2018, the county has entered into short-term subordinate equipment leases to replace fleet for the system in lieu of debt issuance and such leases are ultimately secured by legally available funds of the county including those of the general fund. The amount of lease payments escalated in fiscal 2020 to $10.5 million from closer to $5 million in prior years and Fitch anticipates equipment lease payments near this level going forward.

Current revenue bond debt amortizes fairly rapidly (100% of principal by end of 2030), allowing for the phase in of new debt without significant budget implications depending on the timing and level of new debt to be issued.


In February 2023, six months into the fiscal year, a fire occurred at the county resource recovery facility (RRF) and caused significant damage to the facility resulting in temporary closure of the facility (other than with respect to tire shredding operations). The county has had third party engineers assessing damages, evaluating potential options and developing cost estimates for alternative waste disposal options including the building of a new waste facility, discussed further below. According to the county, the coverage level of the RRF property damage insurance policy is $300 million, with sublimits, and at this time the value of damages is not expected to exceed this amount.

The solid waste department has continued to operate and service its residents without interruption. The county is currently diverting all solid waste to county owned landfills and to private landfills within the county's solid waste system and Fitch does not expect this to have significant effects on near-term operating costs. The RRF processed approximately 900,000 tons of waste last fiscal year which is 43% of the 2.1 million tons of overall solid waste projected to be processed within the system in fiscal 2023.

Projected net-operating results for fiscal 2023 (ending September 30) are positive yoy as tonnage levels increased (projected to be up 3.5% yoy) supporting revenue performance. Due to the fire, electric power sales revenues are projected to be lower by $8 million compared to budget, and compared to fiscal 2022 actuals of $17.4 million. Unrestricted cash levels are not anticipated to materially change compared to fiscal 2022 levels.

In an August 18 report, the county Mayor recommended the county board procure the development of a solid waste campus, which would include the construction of a new modern mass burn waste-to-energy facility capable of processing at least 4,000 tons of waste daily. The Mayor's report includes details on a plan to open a solid waste campus in Hialeah, Florida, about eight miles north of the original resource recovery facility.

The report noted that construction of the facility could be financed through several possible sources, including federal funding under the Inflation Reduction Act, state funding, county revenue bonds and Public-Private Partnership (P3) opportunities. Additionally, somewhere between $100 to $200 million in insurance proceeds from the fire could be used toward a replacement facility, but construction may have to begin by February 2025, unless an extension is granted by the insurer. The timeframe to complete such a project is estimated at nine to 10 years.


The county's Comprehensive Development Master Plan requires the annual certification of a Level of Service with at least five years' disposal capacity as a prerequisite to issue development permits, and unlike other forms of concurrency such as transportation, concurrency requirements for solid waste are state mandated and cannot be waived due to their importance to public health. The concurrency requirement is based on a continuing five-year cycle and must be assured annually for continuing five-year cycles at the start of each fiscal year.

The county currently has capacity at the North Dade landfill through 2026, and the South Dade landfill through 2030. The county is exploring its ability to modify existing permits to expand one or both of its landfills. The department was successful in securing an additional 1.3 million tons of additional private landfill capacity through amendments to existing agreements with Waste Management and Waste Connections expiring 2035 and 2025, respectively. Both agreements include two five-year options-to-renew. The county reports it has a total of 3.05 million tons per year of contracted landfill capacity in addition to its capacity at the county-owned landfills. Fitch expects the county to take appropriate action to ensure a rolling minimum five-year capacity limit to meet state concurrency laws.


The county continues to receive revenues from the collection and disposal of waste and has a very high level of unrestricted cash positioning it well to manage through the near-term while options are explored for the continued disposal of waste.

For FYE 2022, operating revenues increased 9% yoy and were largely driven by increased tipping fee revenue, electric revenue sales, and disposal facility fees. Tipping fee revenue and disposal facility revenue was driven both by strong yoy growth in total tonnage, as well as contractual fee increases per ton for customers. Debt service coverage from adjusted net revenues of $36 million was substantially strong at 8.7x, and reflects a decline in annual debt service from $11.7 million to $4.1 million. Unrestricted cash and investments at FYE 2022 totaled $269 million, and in addition the system had a combined $65 million in rate stabilization and operating expense reserves supporting its robust liquidity of around 450 days cash on hand at FYE 2022. Net debt-to-cash flow available for debt service (CFADS) was -4x. Fitch's calculation of net debt includes the principal payment for equipment leases.

Inflation continues to increase system costs such as labor, vehicles and other operating items, but contractual caps limit fiscal implications and the county has demonstrated a willingness to raise fees accordingly. For fiscal 2023, hauling contract annual CPI inflators are capped at 4% for 13 of 15 contracts with the other two capped at 5%, but these two permit the rollover of any increase over 5%. Disposal contract tipping fees increased by CPI.

To cover increased costs, the county increased the annual fee for residential curbside collection by 5.2%, increasing $25 from $484 to $509 per household. Management anticipates the need for future rate increases to offset costs related to increases in solid waste operating costs, and preliminary budget discussions suggest a $38 rate increase for fiscal 2024.


Revenue Defensibility: 'Stronger'

The bulk of revenue is derived from monopolistic service lines and the county board retains independent rate setting authority. Strong customer and development growth support the favorable service area characteristics. Management has historically managed user rates in line with changes in expenditures.

Operating Risk: 'Midrange'

The system has a diversified revenue base with approximately 61% of fiscal 2022 revenues generated from fees charged on the property tax bill of close to 350,000 households in the service area. Other revenues include tipping fees derived from long-term interlocal agreements with 21 municipalities to provide solid waste disposal services. These contracts were renewed around 2013 and have expiration dates between 2025 and 2035 depending on the municipality. Rates are subject to annual adjustment based on changes in CPI, which due to the higher inflationary environment, have increased yoy. The county has waste-delivery commitments from a number of private haulers.

Financial Profile: 'Stronger'

The system's strong financial profile is characterized by leverage that has generally declined since 2015. However, additional investment in fleet, a waste facility and landfill expansions and associated debt is expected to increase leverage. The system's liquidity profile, while neutral to the assessment, is robust.


Factors that could, individually or collectively, lead to positive rating action/upgrade:

A stabilization or reduction of the system's annual operating costs on a sustained basis could lead to upward movement in the operating risks assessment.

Factors that could, individually or collectively, lead to negative rating action/downgrade:

A sustained and dramatic increase in the operating cost burden due to higher than anticipated waste disposal costs or maintenance needs or increases in external pricing factors outside of the county's control without corresponding and timely rate action;

A delayed response to installing adequate waste disposal measures to ensure sufficient capacity and meet Level of Service requirements, particularly in response to the loss of the resource recovery facility;

A sustained increase in leverage above 8x Fitch's calculation of net debt to cash flow available for debt service and/or a notable decline in liquidity or cash flow.


The fully integrated solid waste system operates as a self-supporting enterprise fund of Miami-Dade County. The system provides solid waste collection, recycling and disposal services to all single-family and small multi-family residences, as well as a small number of commercial and larger multi-family accounts in the unincorporated portions of the county and certain municipalities.

The system includes the county-owned waste-to-energy RRF, three landfills (one of which is for the disposal of ash byproducts), three transfer stations, 13 neighborhood trash and recycling centers and contract disposal capacity with two alternative private providers at four facilities.

Revenue Defensibility

Demand Characteristics

The area economy is diverse with a large international component. The presence of health care, higher education, and professional and business services balance the tourism component of the county's economy. The county has experienced strong growth in property values, new development and population. However, overall tonnage levels had remained relatively stable prior to the pandemic other than increases due to storm activity.

Residential household customers have grown by approximately 4% over the past five years and roughly 6% since 2010. Actual population growth based on census reports has been 7% since 2010.

The bulk of system revenues are derived from a residential assessment fee charged on the property tax bill (roughly 60% of annual revenues), tipping fees (approximately 20%), electric revenues and a utility disposal fee.

Pricing Characteristics

The county board of commissioners retains an independent ability to raise rates as necessary to cover operating costs and maintain its bond covenant of 1.2x coverage. As noted, the board has demonstrated its willingness to implement rate increases to address higher costs and ensure operational sustainability.

Operating contracts are subject to periodic renewal, which exposes the system to future cost risks. The county has been able to renew its contracts with generally similar terms, preventing cost spikes, but a reliance on contracted services results in some limitations on operating cost flexibility.

Financial Profile

The system's relatively low debt and strong unrestricted cash and system reserves results in a strong assessment due to the system's net debt to CFADS of -4x for fiscal 2022.

The additional bonds test and rate covenant are both adequate at 1.20x and allow the use of a portion of the rate stabilization fund to be included in meeting these thresholds.

Fitch expects annual waste generation to increase on a measured basis as the economy experiences continued growth. Future equipment and capital needs related to landfill expansions and a new or updated RRF and annual expenditure growth from operations and maintenance requirements will drive spending. However, the decline in annual bond debt service costs which occurred in fiscal 2022 (from $11.7 million to $4.1 million) provides the ability to issue future debt without significant budgetary implications depending on the size and tenor of the borrowing. Surplus net revenues after payment of debt service has helped support pay-go financing of system improvements and other capital needs. Fitch expects management to maintain adequate tipping and household collection fees to meet these needs.

Fitch believes management's strong revenue defensibility and manageable contracts provide the tools necessary to ensure adequate coverage of financial obligations and sufficient cash levels.

Asymmetric Risk Additive Considerations

In addition to the sources of information identified in Fitch's applicable criteria specified below, this action was informed by information from Lumesis.


The principal sources of information used in the analysis are described in the Applicable Criteria.

ESG Considerations

The highest level of ESG credit relevance is a score of '3', unless otherwise disclosed in this section. A score of '3' means ESG issues are credit-neutral or have only a minimal credit impact on the entity, either due to their nature or the way in which they are being managed by the entity. Fitch's ESG Relevance Scores are not inputs in the rating process; they are an observation on the relevance and materiality of ESG factors in the rating decision. For more information on Fitch's ESG Relevance Scores, visit

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