Friday, September 20, 2013

Ratings games

Posted By on Fri, Sep 20, 2013 at 9:12 AM

Just last month, Moody's Investors Service downgraded Monroe County's credit rating, citing the county's structural budget deficit and reliance on one-shot revenues. 

But yesterday, the bond rating firm Standard & Poor's upgraded the county's ratings for several bonds — the public sector's way of borrowing money, basically — from BBB+ to A. And it gave the county a "stable" ranking, meaning the firm doesn't expect to downgrade the rating in the near future.

A credit rating upgrade generally suggests that the firm has confidence that the borrower won't default on its obligations. Higher ratings can mean lower borrowing costs while lower ratings can mean higher costs.

County Executive Maggie Brooks sent out a statement late in the afternoon yesterday highlighting the rating action and making a subtle knock at Moody's:
“S&P’s upgrade of the County’s credit rating to 'A' status stands as a strong and independent affirmation that our fiscally-responsible approach to budgeting not only protects taxpayers, it's also put county government on solid financial footing for years to come. S&P’s reliable analysis sets the standard in the credit rating industry, leaving absolutely no doubt that our taxpayer-first approach to debt management is a proven success. With a 2013 Budget that freezes the property tax rate for a ninth straight year and holds spending below inflation, it’s certainly no surprise that financial experts like S&P have recognized our work to protect taxpayers.”

When Moody's downgraded the county's rating last month, Brooks and administration officials criticized the action. They said that the firm wants the county to raise taxes, which the county is unwilling to do. But Legislature Democrats said that the downgrade echoed concerns they've been raising about the county's approach to budgeting, particularly the reliance on one-shot revenues.

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