Three major bond-rating agencies confirm stable outlook
FREEHOLD, NJ – All three major national financial rating agencies have assigned a triple-A rating to Monmouth County for the upcoming Monmouth County Improvement Authority (MCIA) governmental refunding bond, series 2014 and reaffirm that rating on all of MonmouthCounty’s outstanding debt while also assigning a stable outlook for the County.
“This is the 16th straight year the County has been awarded AAA status from Fitch, Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Gary J. Rich, Sr., liaison to the County’s Finance Department. “Monmouth County continues to be top-rated in how it manages taxpayer money.”
Only a small percentage of counties throughout the United States have been granted AAA ratings from all three agencies, the highest rating, according to Craig R. Marshall, MonmouthCounty’s finance director.
MonmouthCounty is the only county in New Jersey and one of less than three dozen counties in the nation that can claim to have received the highest score from all three rating agencies.
The AAA ratings reflect MonmouthCounty’s consistently sound financial management, stable growth and low debt burden, according to reports released by the three bond-rating agencies.
“MonmouthCounty continues its demonstration of sound, fiscal management. The County has been careful in its spending and continues to maintain low debt levels,” said Freeholder Director Lillian G. Burry. “As a result, we are able to have greater flexibility in delivering 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 Moody’s expectation that wealth levels will stay above state and national norms, reserves will remain healthy and the County’s debt burden will continue to be nominal.”
Fitch said its AAA rating noted that among the County’s key rating drivers “conservative budgeting and financial management has allowed for relatively stable financial results over an extended period” and that “future borrowing plans are manageable and capital needs are largely related to discretionary projects” with carrying costs including debt service, pension and other post-employment benefits (OPEB) remaining “an affordable component of the budget.”
Standard & Poor’s rating reflected on the County’s budget reductions through improved efficiency and savings through attrition and its policy to include “the annual adoption of a five-year capital improvement program that identifies expenditures and related funding sources.” The report concluded that “the stable outlook on the long-term rating reflects our view of MonmouthCounty’s consistent financial performance and economy, which is it supported by strong management.”
“More than anything else, retaining AAA status has a direct and positive impact on residents in all 53 municipalities,” said Freeholder Serena DiMaso, liaison to the MCIA. “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 our financial report card and it is gratifying when the rating agencies affirm our AAA ratings,” Marshall added. “Once again, MonmouthCounty passed with the highest grade possible, which is especially rewarding given the financial challenges we have faced since the beginning of the recession in 2008.”
As of July 1999, MonmouthCounty became one of only a select few counties in the nation to earn a triple-A rating from all three of the major ratings following established rating agencies. The County earned its triple-A rating from Moody's in October 1996, from Fitch Ratings in August 1997, and from Standard & Poor's in July 1999. A triple-A rating is the highest rating that any entity can earn.