County gets top bond rate yet again

May 17, 2010
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The nation’s top bond-ratings agencies again awarded Kent County their highest ratings for the county’s long-term and short-term debt offerings last week.

Both Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poors confirmed triple-A designations recently for the county’s long-term debt, a rating the county has held every year since 1998. At the same time, Moody’s rated the county’s short-term debt at M1G1, its highest rating, and S&P did the same with its top rating of SP-1+. The county’s delinquent tax notes are considered to be its short-term debt and are securities the county sells every year.

“Given the state of the economy in general, and the economic conditions of Michigan specifically, we are extremely pleased that the rating agencies have affirmed our ratings,” said Sandi Frost Parrish, county chairwoman.

When Moody’s issued its triple-A rating for the county last year, it also attached a “negative” outlook to it. But this time the agency raised that outlook from “negative” to “stable” because Moody’s expects that the county will “adhere to its historically strong management practices, which have resulted in financial flexibility that positions the county to manage through the current economic challenge.”

“The county demonstrated to both firms that we have taken many steps to manage our financial resources appropriately and to manage the operations of the county in an efficient and effective manner,” said Parrish.

Moody’s based its ratings on the fact that the county has historically had a healthy operating reserve and a large, regional economy that “continues to diversify but remains vulnerable to manufacturing concerns.” The agencies also noted that the county’s debt load is a “manageable burden.”

Kent is one of only three counties in Michigan to have earned triple-A designations from both agencies.

“This is a collective effort of everyone,” said County Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio. “It’s not one person, it’s every department; it’s the Board of Commissioners. It’s just the reputation that we continue to have for our management practices, operationally and financially.”

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