QA’s given firsttime AAA rating
CENTREVILLE — Officials from Queen Anne’s County went up to New York in February seeking to finance $12.6 million for long-term capital projects and came back with a AAA rating, the first time that’s ever happened for the county.
The New York bond rating agency Fitch Ratings gave the county the highest possible rating because of the sound fiscal management, stable revenue growth and above average reserves, Finance Director Jonathan Seeman said.
“Fitch gave us AAA but Moody’s kept us at Aa2, which is two steps below AAA. We’ll keep trying,” Seeman said. “You have to remember, that after the recession, only a few years ago, when we had no Rainy Day fund, we were rated AA+, but with a negative outlook by both agencies. Getting the AAA is quite an accomplishment for the county.”
The borrowed money will be used to fund a laundry list of projects for the new circuit courthouse, the Board of Education and vehicle upgrades.
“The action that this body has taken in conjunction with the good staff work and support has lead us to a very good conclusion that can only have a positive influence on the interest that we might have to pay on any bond we might sell,” Commissioner Mark Anderson said.
The list of projects is as follows: new circuit courthouse, $5 million; animal health lab renovations, $50,000; automation, updates and GASB implementations, $500,000; sheriff vehicles, $471,852; ambulance, $257,250; detention center security systems and equipment, $35,000; IT infrastructure, $250,000; transfer station improvements, $50,000; solid waste, heavy equipment, $150,000; Grasonville Elementary School addition, $445,737; Board of Education security upgrades, $209,000; general building improvements, $300,000; Board of Education equipment and vehicles, $374,000; Church Hill Elementary School roof, $152,000; parks and recreation capital equipment, $324,000; major parks maintenance, $200,000; heavy construction vehicle and roads paving and resurfacing total, $2,927,950; and cross county connector trail, $800,000.
The money will be used for purchases, repairs, designs and permitting fees. All of the projects were approved in the county’s Fiscal Year 2017 capital budget last spring. During the county’s Jan. 24 meeting it reviewed the capital projects list and made no last minute alterations.
“It’s not a very unique list,” Seeman said during the Jan. 24 meeting regarding the projects. “I mean, these are the kinds of things that we try to do each year just to keep us up to date.”
Seeman said Fitch Ratings complimented the county’s management of adopting conservative budgets and keeping spending at a reasonable level. The Spending Affordability Committee, which the commissioners appointed, gave recommendations to the county to increase the Rainy Day Fund from seven to eight percent of the annual budget and to also establish a Revenue Stabilization Fund equal to five percent of the budget.
This equates to the county having savings accounts in which it deposits 13 percent of the annual budget amount.
The commissioners approved Resolution 17-07 during its Tuesday, Feb. 28, that authorized the issuance and sale of general obligation bonds not to exceed $13 million. The resolution sets the basic bond terms, provides the notice of sale for perspective bidders and authorizes the commission president and director of finance the authority to award the bonds, the county’s bond counsel said.