Posted Thursday, September 29th, 2016
Morris County had its top-ranked Triple-A bond rating reaffirmed and it’s financial stability ranked as better than the federal government, with a stable financial outlook issued this month by Moody’s Investors Services, Inc., and Standard Poor’s, the nation’s two largest bond rating agencies.
As a result of the Triple-A rating, the county is able to take advantage of optimum interest and financing rates, saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
Morris County will be able to immediately employ the renewed Triple-A rate and save taxpayers’ money in a $29 million bond sale in October.
“This is excellent news for Morris County taxpayers because it allows us to get the best rates on the refinancing of general obligation bonds, saving our county a lot of money’’ said Freeholder Director Kathy DeFillippo. “The top rating also verifies the continued economic health and prosperity of our county.’’
Standard & Poor’s, in its summary, said the county has a very strong economy, with strong budgetary performance, very strong budget flexibility very strong liquidity, strong management, strong debt and contingent liability position, and a strong institutional framework.
“Morris County general obligation bonds are eligible to be rated above the sovereign because we believe the county can maintain better credit characteristics than the U.S. in a stress scenario,’’ said Standard & Poor’s.
According to a summary statement from Moody’s Investors Service, “The highest quality AAA rating reflects the county’s substantial tax base, strong and diverse economy, well-managed financial operations, healthy reserve levels, and modest debt burdens.’’
“The county’s large and diverse $91 billion tax base will remain stable given its advantageous location in northern New Jersey, about 25 miles from New York City, its highly skilled and well-educated labor force and the potential for additional tax base growth,” The Moody’s report continued.
Morris County has had a Triple-A rating since 1975. It was the first county government in New Jersey to obtain the prestigious rating and is only the 11th in the nation to achieve it. The 2016 renewed Triple A ratings were made after a county finance team, comprised of made up of three Freeholders, the County Administrator, Assistant County Administrator, County Treasurer, County Auditor, County Bond Counsel and County Financial Advisor, made presentations to the ratings agencies last month in New York.
“It is extraordinarily difficult to achieve a Triple A rating,’’ said Freeholder Hank Lyon, a member of the Freeholders’ Budget Subcommittee. “The bond rating agencies are, in effect, signaling that our government and financial practices are exceptional, and that our taxpayers are well protected.’’
“We are proud to continue a longstanding tradition of responsible government here in Morris County which provides effective services and programs to our county residents while carefully watching our spending and debt,’’ said Freeholder Christine Myers, also a member of the Budget Subcommittee.
A Triple A bond rating, in effect, means the county has exceptional credit worthiness because the county can easily meet its financial commitments. The county can get the lowest interest rates when borrowing because a Triple A rated government entity is viewed in the financial world of having the smallest risk of defaulting on its debt.
That equates to lower borrowing costs, which allows for lower costs to finance capital projects.
The county plans to issue $29 million of bonds for construction and equipment purchases for the County College of Morris, the Morris County School of Technology, Central Park of Morris County, and for various road and bridge projects.
The county’s Triple A rating for this $29 million bond sale will cost Morris County taxpayers about $750,000 less in interest than a county with a Single A rating and roughly $400,000 less than a county with a Double A rating.