3 major bond-rating agencies say it reflects sound financial management 

FREEHOLD, NJ – Despite the still-slumping economy and the Super storm Sandy clean-up, Monmouth County remains top-rated in how it manages taxpayer money. The nation’s three major bond-rating agencies, Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, have reaffirmed the county’s AAA status.

Only a small percentage of counties throughout the United States have been granted AAA ratings, the highest rating, according to Craig R. Marshall, Monmouth County’s finance director. In fact, Monmouth County is the only county in New Jersey and one of approximately 34 counties in the nation that can claim to have received the highest score from all three rating agencies.

The AAA ratings reflect Monmouth County’s sound financial management, stable growth and low debt burden, according to reports released by the three bond-rating agencies. All three agencies awarded the county a favorable stable outlook for the future.

“I am extremely pleased that Monmouth County was recognized once again for its continued demonstration of sound, fiscal management,” said Freeholder Gary J. Rich, liaison to the Finance Department. “Because the county has been careful in its spending and continues to maintain low debt levels we are able to enjoy greater flexibility in providing quality services to our residents. It shows how well the county is managing its resources and planning for the future.”

According to Moody’s Investors Service, the AAA rating is a reflection of the county’s “strong financial operations with healthy reserve levels, substantial and diverse tax base and favorable debt position. The stable outlook reflects our expectation that the county tax base will return to growth mode in the near term, and the county’s debt burden will remain nominal.”

Fitch said its AAA rating noted the county’s “solid financial management resulting in continued strong operations and financial flexibility, stable growth in its wealthy tax base, and low direct debt levels with rapid amortization.” Fitch said it also expects the county will maintain financial flexibility despite its high fixed costs and cited the county’s positive employment growth and current unemployment levels that remain below the state average.

Standard & Poor’s rating reflected on the county’s strong and diverse regional economy, extremely strong and diverse property tax base, consistently strong and conservative financial management, demonstrated by strong fund balances and moderate to low overall debt.

In commenting on super storm Sandy’s economic impact to Monmouth County, Standard &Poor’s noted that the county will “likely withstand the super storm’s near-term effects through the proactive steps it has taken to quantify the immediate effect on the property tax base to budget accordingly in fiscal 2013.” 

All three rating agencies have affirmed the AAA rating for the upcoming Monmouth County Improvement Authority (MCIA) governmental loan revenue bonds, series 2012. In doing so, the agencies also favored a stable outlook for the county.

“More than anything else, retaining AAA status has a direct and positive impact on residents in all 53 municipalities,” Freeholder Serena DiMaso said. “Loans on funds borrowed through the MCIA carry a much lower interest rate due to the AAA rating. Many towns purchase such things as police cruisers and fire trucks through the MCIA, and the tax savings are felt immediately.”

This is the 14th year the county has been awarded AAA status from all three agencies.

“It’s always gratifying when the rating agencies affirm our AAA ratings because these essentially are our financial report cards,” Marshall added. “Once again, Monmouth County passed with the highest grade possible, which is especially rewarding given these difficult economic times.”