Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Morris County has had its Triple-A bond rating reaffirmed with a stable outlook by Moody’s Investors Services, Inc., and Standard & Poor’s, the nation’s two largest bond rating agencies.

“This is very good news for our taxpayers,” said Freeholder Director Tom Mastrangelo.   “Reaffirming the Triple-A rating enabled the county to save $323,000 on the refinancing of $5.8 million in general obligation bonds.”

Mastrangelo said Moody’s also affirmed its Triple-A rating for the county’s existing general obligation debt.

“These savings clearly illustrate the importance of our county having a Triple-A bond rating,” said Freeholder Hank Lyon, chair of the budget committee.   “The higher the rating, the more money the county and Morris County taxpayers save in interest payments.”

Moody’s summary statement said the Triple-A rating is assigned to Morris County “reflects the county’s substantial tax base, strong and diverse economy, well-managed financial operations that have historically supported healthy reserve levels, and a modest debt burden.”

Standard and Poor’s rationale for the Triple-A rating included what it called the county’s “very strong budgetary flexibility,” and its overall budgetary performance, which it also viewed as “strong.”

This is the first rating review since the freeholders adopted the 2014 county budget.

“We are pleased to maintain a Triple-A rating and deliver a zero percent increase in county taxes for the second year in a row, while also reducing county debt by $8.3 million,” said budget committee member Freeholder John Krickus.

The rating also comes on the heels of a just completed audit that pronounced the county’s fiscal position as being significantly improved over the past year.

According to Raymond Sarinelli, of the accounting firm Nisivoccia LLP, the county’s fund balance at the end of last year was at $55 million, the highest it has been in recent memory, and something he said the bond rating agencies look favorably upon.

Sarinelli said the audit also found the total debt authorized by the county was down $10 million in 2012 and $12 million last year, another positive factor considered by the rating agencies.

“Our debt is at the lowest level it’s been in many years, our fund balance is at a record high and we have not had a tax increase in two years,” Mastrangelo said.   “Our fiscally conservative and responsible approach to county government has been affirmed with this latest Triple-A rating.”

Morris County has kept a Triple-A rating since 1975, when it became the first county government in New Jersey and only the 10th in the nation to achieve the prestigious rating.