- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
By ERICA MITRANOStaff writer
Charles County government’s bond ratings, which help determine how expensive it is for the county to borrow money, remained stable in 2012, two of three major bond rating agencies announced in mid-June.
On June 14, Moody’s Investors Service again assigned an Aa1 rating to Charles County’s taxable and tax-exempt bonds, and affirmed its prior Aa1 rating for $312 million in existing county general obligation bond debt, according to ratings reports provided by county government.
“The rating reflects the county’s satisfactory, although recently weakened, financial position, characterized by comprehensive fiscal policies and planning; narrowing, albeit still satisfactory, fund balance levels, and an affordable debt position,” according to an accompanying report.
Similarly, Fitch Ratings gave AAA ratings, the same as last year, to county bonds, and affirmed its AAA for outstanding debt. The rating outlook was “stable,” according to releases posted on financial websites.
Both agencies’ reports cited similar strengths and concerns about Charles County government’s outlook. Negatively, bond raters noted the use of reserve funds, falling land values and the “narrow” economy based on military and government jobs. But low debt and high job availability were cited as pluses.
The rating from Standard & Poor’s was not available. Last year’s rating was AA.
On Tuesday, county government sold $4 million in taxable public improvement bonds to Robert W. Baird & Co. at an interest rate of 2.63 percent. Tax-exempt bonds of $51.2 million went to J.P. Morgan Securities at 2.07 percent interest.
“This sounds like really good news. Am I reading all this correctly?” Commissioner Ken Robinson asked.
“It is really good news, commissioner, yes, sir,” replied Sam Ketterman, a hired financial consultant with Davenport & Co.
In 2011, Charles County sold $4 million in taxable bonds to Robert W. Baird & Co. at an interest rate of 3.91 percent, which Ketterman said at the time was a “very good interest rate in this particular environment.”
The nontaxable bonds were sold to the same company at 2.82 percent interest.