Standard & Poor’s Rating Services used phrases like “very strong budgetary flexibility and performance” and a “strong institutional framework” in announcing it recently raised the county government’s general obligation debt rating from AA-minus to the AA level.
Chairman Tom Worthan told the Douglas County Commission last week the new rating could mean a lower cost for taxpayers for bond-financed projects “since Standard & Poor’s ratings are an indication of credit quality and worthiness.”
Worthan also said the rating company foresaw the county’s future bond rating being upgraded even further.
“If the county continues its current trend of good financial management practices, our county’s bond rating may again be raised after two years,” he said.
Commissioner Ann Jones Guider said the increased bond rating was very positive news.
“This means that when we float bonds for things like road improvements or our citizens approve a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, it means we can get a better rate on the money we borrow to do these projects,” she said. Commissioner Kelley Robinson said a bond rating is used in a way similar to how an individual’s credit rating affects the interest that a person would pay a bank to borrow money. “Like an individual’s credit rating, the higher Douglas County’s credit rating is with Standard & Poor, the less it will cost us to borrow money,” he said.
He also said the rating increase was encouraging because the county would have proof it might be worthy of the AAA rating in the future.
Worthan said credit ratings provide an evaluation of the county’s credit worthiness as the agency saw Douglas County’s outlook as stable and reflected a “very strong capacity to meet financial commitments.” AA is the second-highest rating given by Standard & Poor.
Its ratings range from AAA, meaning the governmental entity has an extremely strong capacity to meet financial commitments, to the lowest rating of D, meaning it is likely to default on financial commitments, its website stated.
Although Douglas County’s new rating is based on the bonds issued for construction of the Douglas County Law Enforcement and Adult Detention Center, Worthan said the improved rating also reflects the agency’s overall analysis of the county’s financial strengths and practices.
Douglas County voters approved the bonds for the county’s law enforcement center in a 2009 referendum.
Also last week, the commission heard similar positive news regarding the annual independent audit of county finances.
Representatives of the accounting firm of Nichols, Cauley & Associates LLC said its audit revealed no major concerns.
In other business, commissioners voted unanimously to hire Monroe-based Carter Watkins Associates Architects to design the new Douglas County Animal Shelter planned for Deer Lick Park.
County commissioners chose the park site in December. They reportedly budgeted $250,000 for planning, site investigation and architectural design.
A review committee which included members of the Animal Control Advisory Board and Animal Control Department staff reviewed all nine submittals, and narrowed the qualification to two firms, both of which made presentations to the committee, which then recommended Carter Watkins to commissioners.