Monday, July 20th, 2009

Morris County bonds have received a Aaa rating for the 35th consecutive year.

Moody’s Investors Service, Inc., and Standard & Poor’s, the two largest bond rating agencies in the nation, have given their highest government rating to the county’s $43.6 million worth of general obligation bonds.

Moody’s said the Aaa rating “reflects the county’s strong and diverse tax base, well-managed financial operations…and a modest debt burden.” The agency also pointed to what it called Morris County’s history of “conservative budgeting practices.”

Standard & Poor’s reaffirmed its Aaa rating for the county’s bonds, and said the county’s economic outlook was “stable.”

Morris County Freeholder Director Gene F. Feyl, Freeholders William Chegwidden and Margaret Nordstrom and several county staff met in New York City earlier this month with the rating agencies to brief them on the county government’s economic health.

“The rating agencies were pleased when we told them we were continuing the program-based budgeting process we started last year,” Feyl said. “They like the fact that, while we are conservative in our budgeting, we continue to deliver needed services efficiently and effectively.”

According to Feyl, the rating agencies also place a good deal of value on the consistency and experience of a strong management team. “The agencies look for competent leadership based in sound public policy, and that’s what we have in Morris County,” Feyl said.

Freeholder Nordstrom said the Aaa rating is important because the higher the rating, the more money the county and Morris taxpayers save in interest payments on bond and note sales.

“Being able to maintain a triple-A rating is a strong statement about our fiscal planning,” Nordstrom said. “It demonstrates the financial and managerial strength of Morris County government.”

Freeholder Chegwidden, the freeholder board’s deputy director, said the Aaa rating is also important for the Morris County Improvement Authority, which is planning to issue up to $30 million in bonds to finance a pilot renewable energy initiative.

“The bonds to fund the renewable energy program have been guaranteed by the county government,” Chegwidden said. “Keeping the triple-A rating ensures us getting the best interest rates available when those bonds are issued.”

Morris County has maintained a Aaa rating on its bonds since 1975, when it became the first county government in New Jersey and only the 10th in the nation to achieve the prestigious rating.