County achieves highest possible credit rating for bonds needed for critical capital projects
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today announced that, for the 24th year in a row, the County received the highest possible credit rating, AAA, from all three bond rating agencies – Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investor Services and Standard & Poor’s. Among more than 3,100 counties in the nation, Howard is one of 49 counties to receive a AAA rating from all three agencies. The rating affirms Howard County’s ability to pay its debts and gives taxpayers the lowest possible interest when repaying bonds sold by the county.
“The past year has been filled with uncertainty and unknowns, especially when it comes to the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ball. “Achieving this rating for the 24th year in a row affirms the fiscal stewardship and responsibility Howard County has demonstrated throughout the past year. This rating also ultimately saves our residents money, and I especially appreciate the trust and investment of our taxpayers. I want to thank and acknowledge our entire finance and budget teams for their guidance throughout this process. As we set our sights on our economic road to recovery, our County’s fiscal practices remain healthy, flexible, and sound.”
“I am very pleased that Howard County has maintained its Triple A Bond Rating for the 24th consecutive year,” said Liz Walsh, County Council Chair. “Even with the unprecedented challenges of a pandemic, Howard County’s ability to maintain a Triple A rating shows its strong fiscal foundation and capacity to weather uncertain economic times”.
The rating agencies use four categories of criteria: Economy/Tax base, Finances, Management, and Debt/Pensions. Each agency issued a report that highlights Howard County’s strengths:
Fitch expects, “Howard County to maintain a high level of financial flexibility throughout economic cycles, consistent with a long history of sound operating performance and healthy reserves. The county maintains superior inherent budget flexibility in the form of an unlimited legal ability to raise revenues and solid expenditure flexibility. The county’s financial profile also reflects strong revenue growth prospects from a growing property tax base. Fitch expects the county’s long-term liability burden to remain low.”
Moody’s reported, “The stable outlook reflects the likelihood that the county’s financial position will remain sound given management’s adherence to formal fiscal policies. The outlook also reflects future growth in the county’s base given ongoing commercial and residential development spurred by proximity to the District of Columbia (Aaa stable) and the institutional presence of Fort Meade, which employs approximately 15,000 Howard County residents.”
Standard & Poor’s noted, “The county continues to monitor anticipated multiyear revenue loss as a result of COVID-19, having modified both the fiscal 2020 and the current fiscal 2021 budgets while remaining committed to developing balanced budgets in the near term. We believe costs related to long-term liabilities remain affordable, particularly given the county’s sizable and wealthy tax base and management’s strong planning for current and future challenges.”
“We are very pleased on the affirmation of our triple A ratings from all three major rating agencies,” said Howard County Department of Finance Director Rafiu Ighile. “Notably, is the acknowledgement by the rating agencies of the sound fiscal policies and financial management of the County. It speaks to the hard work and dedication of the Finance Department team and the County in general.”
“Very pleased that despite the pandemic and economic downturn, the rating agencies maintained our AAA credit ratings with a stable outlook in acknowledgement of the County’s economic base and its strong fiscal discipline and sound financial management,” said Howard County Office of Budget Administrator Holly Sun.
“Even during this difficult economic downturn caused by the pandemic, we are pleased to see that the rating agencies recognize Howard County’s strong economic diversity and resiliency,” said Larry Twele, CEO of the Howard County Economic Development Authority. “These fundamentals show the county is strong now and positioned for more growth in the future.”
“Howard County has always been committed prudent fiscal management practices and to receive a AAA bond rating in this economic environment is a testament to sound financial decision making,” said Leonardo McClarty, President/CEO of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce.