Summit County has maintained its AA+ bond rating by Fitch Ratings, an international credit rating agency.
In a recently released report, Fitch cited key reasons for the “stable outlook rating,” which means the county is stable and the agency has confidence in the county’s ability to maintain the rating for the long term.
The reasons include: maintaining a budgetary balance with strong reserves; conservative financial management; a diverse economic base and moderate debt.
“AA is considered good credit quality,” said Brian Nelsen, budget and finance director for the county. “AAA is the highest rating by Fitch, so we are just below the top level and with AA+ we are on the high side of AA.”
He said few counties or cities are rated AAA. The credit ratings are assigned on an alphabetic scale from AAA to D.
“Even prior to the recession in 2008, when the county had 50 percent reserve balances, we were still always AA,” Nelsen said. “They grade us based on finances, economic development and property valuations, they run the gamut in things they look at in determining ratings, including foreclosures.”
He said 2008 and 2009 were challenging years because of budget cuts. In 2009, Fitch analysts changed the outlook on the AA+ bond rating from stable to negative when county revenues started to drop.
Nelsen said the county put together a plan to mitigate the reduction in revenues and took the plan to Fitch. The next year, the rating was upgraded to stable.
“For us, the ability to maintain our bond rating consistently in the light of declining revenue and declining property values has been the struggle all along, but we’ve been able to meet that challenge,” he said.
Fitch also cited that Summit County’s employment indicators have improved over a year ago. The jobless rate was down to 5.9 percent in October, which is below the state (6.3 percent) and national (7.8 percent) averages.
The county is expected to receive similar bond ratings by the end of next week from Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s Investor Services.
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or email@example.com.