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Posted Friday, June 8th, 2018

Rating Agencies Tout County’s Overall Financial Management

Morris County has again been awarded the top-ranked Triple-A bond rating from the nation’s two largest rating agencies, Moody’s Investors Services, Inc., and Standard & Poor’s, based on what the agencies contend is financial stability that ranks as better than the federal government.

The Triple-A rating, awarded to the county for the 43rd straight year, benefits residents by allowing the county to take advantage of optimum interest and financing rates, saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

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“This is excellent news for Morris County taxpayers because it secures the county the best rates on refinancing general obligation bonds, which saves our residents money,’’ said Freeholder Christine Myers, chair of the Freeholder Board’s Budget Subcommittee.

“The Triple-A rating also reflects the importance of the county’s long-term strategic planning and budgeting efforts, which reflect our long-term stability.’’

Moody’s touted the county’s history of conservative budgeting, mixed with financially sound initiatives — such as the lease of the Morris View Healthcare Center, designed to improve the financial position of the county, as reasons for the top ranking. It also praised the county’s sound debt policy, while touting its “highly dependable’’ revenue streams.

“The Triple A reflects the county’s substantial tax base, strong and diverse economy, well-managed financial operations, healthy reserves, and modest debt burden,’’ Moody’s said in its report. 

Standard & Poor’s reported that the county has a very strong economy, with strong budgetary performance, very strong budget flexibility, very strong liquidity, very strong management, and a strong institutional framework.

“We view the county’s management as very strong, with strong financial policies and practices … that are well-embedded and likely sustainable,’’ the S&P report stated.

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 2018 renewed Triple A ratings were made after a county finance team, comprised of Freeholders, the County Administrator, Assistant County Administrator, County Treasurer’s Office team, and others made presentations to the ratings agencies last month in New York.

“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 being prudent about our spending and debt practices,’’ said Freeholder Deborah Smith, a member of the Budget Subcommittee. Freeholder Deborah Smith also noted that Standard and Poor’s had upgraded the County’s management score from “Strong” to “Very Strong” and attributed that enhancement to the collaborative efforts of both the Elected Officials and County’s Management Team.

“It is extraordinarily difficult to achieve a Triple-A rating,’’ added Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo, 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.’’

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.