Thursday, June 12, 2014
Citing the county’s strong financial practices, low net debt, healthy financial liquidity, and a consistent ability to maintain balanced budgets, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services has reaffirmed Atlantic County’s rating of AA for its 2014 general obligation bonds and outstanding debt.
“The S&P credit rating reflects well on Atlantic County government,” stated County Executive Dennis Levinson. “Despite Atlantic City’s struggles with declining gaming revenue and million-dollar casino tax appeal settlements, and a dramatic decline in countywide assessed property values, dropping 18% in 2013 and 29% in 2014, Atlantic County government remains financially sound and stable.”
Like Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investors Service reaffirmed its Aa2 rating and stable outlook for Atlantic County. Moody’s based its determination on the county’s “responsive management that prepares long-term capital and financial planning with prudent debt and finance policies.”
These ratings are important because they enable the county to attract lower interest rates and save money on capital improvements and other needs, according to Levinson. “A bond rating is like a credit score, and we have managed to maintain an excellent score that saves our taxpayers millions,” he said.
In his tenure as county executive, Levinson has made it a priority for county government to enlist “pay as you go” financing rather than to pass on debt to future generations. The county has also maintained a surplus that provides some flexibility when faced with the unexpected.
“In essence it’s like saving for a rainy day. This has softened the impact of the economic downturn on Atlantic County government,” said Levinson.
Standard & Poor’s noted the fact that the county’s reserves are above 6% of expenditures for the past three fiscal years with no plans to significantly spend them down. “In addition, the county has managed well-under the 2% levy cap.”
“This year alone, Atlantic County is $3.5 million below the mandated cap,” Levinson added.
Standard & Poor’s also highlighted the county’s strong management techniques that include a seven-year financial plan, quarterly monitoring of the current fund budget as well as a five-year capital improvement plan with identified projects and funding resources.
“This is not to say that Atlantic County does not face challenges; we do. But we are in a much preferred position of fiscal strength when doing so,” stated Levinson. “I take my job seriously, as does my administration. We protect the purse strings of our taxpayers. And according to our ratings, they remain soundly intact.”