Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman this week announced that in spite of continued fiscal headwinds caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the County’s major rating agencies affirmed its strong bond ratings. The County retained its AAA rating from S&P Global Ratings and its Aa1 rating from Moody’s Investors Service.
“These strong bond ratings confirm that our fiscal policy is sound and that Anne Arundel County is a good investment,” said County Executive Steuart Pittman. “We know that the effects of the pandemic will continue for years to come, but we are proud that we are emerging from the last year on a strong and stable fiscal footing.”
The County has maintained its AAA rating from S&P for 15 years and its Aa1 rating from Moody’s for 20 years. The ratings keep borrowing costs low for capital projects and reflect the County’s sound fiscal policies, prudent long-range planning, and economic stability.
According to a County press release:
In awarding the ratings, the agencies referenced Anne Arundel County’s strong management team, good financial policies and practices, conservative budgeting practices and a strong local economy. The county maintains financial flexibility with its income tax rate (fourth lowest in the state) and a property tax rate (seventh lowest) that compares favorably to other Maryland counties.
The ratings agencies also noted the county’s COVID response and utilization of federal assistance funding. Anne Arundel County received approximately $101 million from the federal CARES Act last year, and has spent the funding on programs that help residents, local businesses and community organizations. The county posts information on how that funding is spent on its OpenArundel port, to ensure transparency and accountability.
Anne Arundel County currently has a Revenue Reserve Fund that allows a maximum balance of 5 percent of estimated General Fund revenues for the upcoming fiscal year. County Executive Pittman submitted an appropriation bill (Bill 22-21) to the County Council on March 1 that would add $1.2 million of existing fund balance to the fund, reaching its maximum of $84.1 million. The County Executive also supports legislation (Bill 25-21) by Councilmember Jessica Haire (District 7) that will increase the ceiling of the fund from 5 percent to 6 percent of General Fund revenues. Bill 25-21 is cosponsored by the entire County Council. Increasing the total amount of reserves will positively affect the county’s bond ratings going forward.
In another effort that was noted by the ratings agencies, Anne Arundel County has made climate resiliency planning an integral part of its budget and strategic growth planning. For the upcoming Fiscal Year 2022 budget, the county added a climate resilience rating component to agency capital budget requests. The Pittman Administration is also considering creating a Resilience Authority to help finance climate resilience projects to protect county property and assets.