Harford County’s Borrowing Increased With Lower Interest Rates

December 15, 2014

As reported by the Baltimore Sun, Harford County’s borrowing increased by more than $2,000 per capita over the course of the past decade to build schools, fire houses, park facilities and other public infrastructure projects.

One reason for the growth in per capita debt was a relatively stable population that grew at a rate of fewer than 1,000 residents yearly during the Craig administration. The other reason was the high rate of borrowing, increasing by $520 million in the same period.

As of June 30 this year, the county had outstanding principal and interest on long term debt of $868,899,320, which translates into $3,486.55 for each adult and child resident of the county, with its U.S. Census estimated population of 249,215 in 2013.

While the article compares per capital debt with other jurisdictions, it also points out that other factors need to be considered when making these comparisons.

For one thing, it’s a lot cheaper to borrow in 2014 — which the county did earlier this year to the tune of $40 million at just over 3 percent interest for 20 years — than it was when Craig’s predecessor borrowed nearly $60 million between 2001 and 2002 at rates averaging 4.5 percent.

Much of the county’s older debt was refinanced during the Craig administration at rates averaging 2 to 3 percent, according to the annual financial report for fiscal 2014, a significant long term cost saving.

In addition, Harford’s credit rating improved during the final years of the Craig administration, which also made borrowing cheaper, be it new debt or refinanced old debt.

Harford County’s debt per capita is moderate when compared to Howard and Baltimore Counties’, $5,754.33 and $4,692.52, respectively.

To learn more about managing and financing your counties capital budget, attend the MACo Winter Conference Session titled “Mastering the Mystery of Infrastructure Budgeting.” Speakers will discuss the importance of maintaining infrastructure – creating an infrastructure inventory, setting priorities when building your capital plan, and developing a sound financial approach to pay for it.

Speakers:

  • Robert Slocum, Director, Division of Engineering and Construction Management, Washington County
  • Andrew Kleine, Budget Chief, Baltimore City
  • Nicole Westermann, Public Financial Management

 Date/Time: Thursday, January 8, 2015; 2:15 pm – 3:15 pm

Learn more about MACo’s Winter Conference:

Questions? Contact Meetings & Events Director Virginia White.


Baltimore County Maintains Its AAA Bond Rating

December 10, 2014

The three major bond rating agencies – Moody’s Investor Service, Standards and Poor’s Rating Services and Fitch Ratings – again issued Baltimore County a AAA bond rating. As reported by the Baltimore Sun, the agencies provided the following comments on the county’s fiscal health.

Fitch noted the county’s “broad and diverse economy” with federal agencies, health care jobs, financial services institutions and colleges as a strength, as well as declining unemployment rates and a growing population.

The county government’s reserve funds are strong and the county has a history of “conservative budgeting practices,” Fitch wrote.

Moody’s also noted that the county has a “sizable and diverse tax base that will continue to benefit from its strategic geographic location and institutional strengths.” Moody’s noted that the county’s bond rating could go down if the county’s reserve funds are used up, if the county borrows from its pension fund or if the federal government’s ratings are downgraded.

Standard & Poor’s said it doesn’t plan to review the county’s bond ratings for two years because it believes the county’s finances are in solid shape.

The county recently sold $200 million in bonds at an interest rate of 3%.


U.S. Communities Offers New Savings on Roofing & Waterproofing Products & Services

December 3, 2014

U.S. Communities has awarded Garland/DBS, Inc. the contract for Roofing Supplies and Services, Waterproofing and Related Products and Services through lead public agency, Cobb County, Georgia. This contract provides agencies with turnkey solutions for complex roof projects with a quick implementation using pre-qualified local contractors.

USCommThe new contract will begin on January 1, 2015, and it delivers improved pricing that is an average of 8% lower. The contract term will be for three (3) years with the option to extend the contract for two (2) additional periods of one year each. The current Garland/DBS, Inc. contract has been extended through December 31, 2014. A pricing amendment has been added to the current contract enabling agencies to take advantage of the better overall pricing now. The amendment is effective September 25, 2014, through December 31, 2014.

Take advantage of the expanded service offering and better overall pricing for your comprehensive roofing and waterproofing solutions now. If you are not looking for roofing solutions, you may want to consider taking advantage of their complimentary preventive roof maintenance training to understand how to keep small rooftop problems from becoming big ones.

To learn more about this new contract, register for a complimentary one-hour webinar.

Webinar Dates:

If you are unable to attend one of the webinars, contact U.S. Communities.


Fitch Ratings Upgrades Wicomico’s Bond rating

December 1, 2014

Fitch Ratings Inc. recently upgraded Wicomico County’s bond rating from AA- to AA in preparation for an upcoming bond sale. From the County’s press release,

Fitch’s ratings boost follows similar upgrades issued last year by the other two rating agencies, Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s. The rating further defines the county’s Rating Outlook as “stable.” In a press release from Fitch, the county was praised for having a “strong financial profile including revenue and spending flexibility as well as robust reserves.” Other components of the upgrade referred to “strong fiscal management, favorable debt position, well-managed long-term liabilities and conservative budgeting and revenue enhancements.”

Specifically, Fitch noted, “The county has prudently increased the property tax rate to offset pressures stemming from ongoing declines in taxable assessed value and continued to budget conservatively.” Also, “favorable operations are mostly due to conservative expenditure budgeting and revenue enhancements made during the budgeting process.”

The bonds will be used to finance the completion of Bennett Middle School and other capital projects.


Legislative Handbook Series – An Indispensable Reference

November 28, 2014

The Department of Legislative Services has released its quadrennial Legislative Handbook Series, a deep and useful reference series that encapsulates nearly every issue of government at the state and local level. The series may be downloaded or viewed online for free at the links below:

Legislative Handbook Series:

Vol 1 – Legislators Handbook
Vol 2 – Government Services
Vol 3 – Revenue Structure
Vol 4 – Budget Process
Vol 5 – Personnel, Pensions & Procurement
Vol 6 – Local Government
Vol 7 – Business Regulation
Vol 8 – Criminal/Juvenile Justice Process
Vol 9 – Education


Fitch Assigns Montgomery’s General Obligation Bonds a AAA Rating

October 23, 2014

Fitch Ratings has assigned Montgomery County a AAA bond rating as the county prepares to sell $821.87 million in general obligation bonds in a competitive bond sale on November 6. The article in Market Watch identified the following key factors as rating drivers:

HEALTHY FINANCIAL FUNDAMENTALS: Montgomery County has a sophisticated management team that uses conservative budgeting and has established debt and reserve policies that have resulted in healthy reserve and liquidity levels.

SOLID OPERATING PERFORMANCE: Strong operating results in fiscals 2011 through 2013 have materially enhanced the county’s reserve position. Fitch believes operations will remain positive and in line with the county’s plans.

BALANCED FISCAL PLAN: The county has adopted a multi-year fiscal plan that balances current resources against spending and continues to address other critical operating priorities relating to fund balance replenishment, pay-as-you-go capital, and other post-employment benefits (OPEB).

STRONG ECONOMIC CORE: The stable regional economy is anchored by the extensive presence of the federal government and related contracting employment, marked by consistently low rates of unemployment, a highly skilled labor force, and very high income metrics.

DEBT REMAINS MODERATE: Debt ratios are expected to remain at a moderate level despite some pressure from future bond issuance plans to fund the county’s capital improvement program (CIP). The county has prudently managed its exposure to other long-term liabilities related to pension and OPEB.

The article also addresses other factors that were considered:

  • Continued strong financial performance
  • Economic performance remains very strong
  • Sharp improvement in reserves
  • Fiscal plan addresses key priorities
  • Debt to remain affordable despite sizable annual issuances

Garrett County to Celebrate its Manufacturing Success

October 17, 2014

As reported by the Cumberland Times-News, Garrett County is reinventing its rural manufacturing base and plans to celebrate its successes.

The county will celebrate its thriving manufacturing industry this month with a couple of events that will showcase the industry’s growth, as well as its historic talents and character as a community.

Kicking off the celebration is the first conference in the Power of Possibilities Series being hosted by The Greater Cumberland Committee and several other regional organizations at Garrett College in McHenry on Oct. 24. Designed with regional infrastructure and ecosystem entities in mind, this conference will offer an update on the region’s economic outlook, as well as advice from industry and government speakers and a toolkit of resources to assist education, government, and nonprofit community organizations for working with entrepreneurs.

Next up are the Maryland Economic Development Association’s 2014 Fall Conference and Showcase on “Advancing Manufacturing in Maryland” Oct. 26 and 27 at Rocky Gap Casino Resort. This two-day event will kick off MEDA’s fourth annual Economic Development Week, which emphasizes the importance of economic development for the state of Maryland to the general public with initiatives and events held throughout the state.

More than 30 specialty manufacturers are located in Garrett County.


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