Municipal credit rating agency Fitch Ratings has affirmed its AA assessment for Oneida County.
County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. and Comptroller Joseph J. Timpano talked with analysts from three major rating services in separate telephone calls last Monday as the county gets ready to sell $14.4 million in bonds.
Besides Fitch, the county officials talked to Moody’s Investment Services and Standard & Poor’s.
Fitch confirmed its rating from last year in a report released Thursday. It also said the county’s outlook was “stable.” Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s had not publicly released their analyses by Thursday. The county offices were closed on Friday in observance of Good Friday.
In 2016, Moody’s held its previous rating of A1 while Standard & Poor’s affirmed its AA- ranking. Moody’s assigned a “negative outlook” to its assessment of the county’s financial condition going forward.
All the ratings put the county in the classification of upper medium investment grade to high quality.
A high bond rating lowers borrowing costs and translates into savings for taxpayers. The county borrows money annually to pay for major investments like road and bridge repairs and upgrades, building renovations and new construction, major equipment purchases, and information technology upgrades.
“The AA rating reflects the county’s demonstrated improvement in financial operations since 2011 that has restored available general fund reserves to levels that support strong financial resilience,” said Fitch in its report. “Additionally, the county has a modest debt burden, manageable carrying costs and an improving local tax base with ongoing economic development activity.”
Fitch also said county “is expected to maintain strong financial resilience and a solid reserve cushion based on the positive operating results and management’s ability to control expenditure growth.”
The agency also pointed to general fund surpluses for four of the past five years. At the end of 2015, the unrestricted general fund balance was 6.8 percent of expenditures, up from a low 3.8 percent in 2011, according to Fitch.
Picente expects to have the final tally for 2016 shortly and is looking for another surplus.