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Friday, March 4, 2016

Atlantic County Maintains Strong Credit Rating

Residents of Atlantic County can be assured that Atlantic County government remains fiscally sound as confirmed by its Aa2 bond rating assigned by Moody’s Investors Service on March 3, 2016.

“At no time in recent history has Atlantic County faced such severe economic challenges following the closing of four Atlantic City casinos, the loss of 8,000 related jobs, and a $22 billion drop in our tax ratable base,” stated Dennis Levinson, Atlantic County Executive. “Yet, Atlantic County government has maintained its Aa2 bond rating, among the top ratings tiers, over the past five years due to our consistent conservative fiscal management and low debt ratio of 0.4 percent of equalized value, far below the statutory limit.”

Bond ratings are given to local governments to rate their overall credit-worthiness, much the same as credit scores do for individuals.

The Aa2 rating reflects the county’s strong management team, which prepares long-term capital and financial plans with prudent debt and finance policies, according to Moody’s. The county’s finances are bolstered by significant borrowable liquidity that helps insulate the county from potential shocks related to the ongoing fiscal crisis in Atlantic City.

“Even though we have refunded Atlantic City nearly $50 million over the past several years for its over-assessments of casino properties, Atlantic County is extremely solvent,” added Levinson. “So much in fact, that our residents paid less in property taxes in 2015 than residents in 15 of the state’s 21 counties. And Atlantic County was the only county to see a decrease in property taxes from 2014 according to data compiled by the state.”

“Because we have saved for rainy days and held fast to a policy of ‘pay as you go,’ Atlantic County is in an enviable financial position, as recognized by both Atlantic City and the State of New Jersey and the suggestion of several elected officials that we use our outstanding bond ratings to help pay off Atlantic City’s debt,” he said.

Levinson reiterated that it is not something he would consider. “We will not jeopardize the citizens of 22 municipalities for the short term benefit of those in one.”

Moody’s Investors Services also viewed favorably the county’s efforts to diversify the regional economy with the implementation of a countywide economic development strategy and action plan prepared by AngelouEconomics, an independent economic consultant.

Stockton University has been assigned as the lead entity in developing the Aviation Research and Technology Park. The county is also working on developing non-gaming businesses and is taking steps to tackle the region’s high foreclosure rate, noted Moody’s.

“I applaud the dedicated and conscientious employees throughout county government who work to ensure our financial stability and adhere to the stringent fiscal policies and procedures that have protected our taxpayers so well,” said Levinson.

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