Howard County, for the 24th year in a row, has received the highest possible credit rating ̶ AAA ̶ from all three bond rating agencies: Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investor Services and Standard & Poor’s.
Among more than 3,100 counties in the nation, Howard is one of 49 counties to receive a AAA rating from all three agencies. The rating affirms Howard County’s ability to pay its debts and gives taxpayers the lowest possible interest when repaying bonds sold by the county.
The rating agencies use four categories of criteria: economy/tax base, finances, management and debt/pensions. Each agency issued a report that highlights Howard County’s strengths:
Fitch expects, “Howard County to maintain a high level of financial flexibility throughout economic cycles, consistent with a long history of sound operating performance and healthy reserves. The county maintains superior inherent budget flexibility in the form of an unlimited legal ability to raise revenues and solid expenditure flexibility. The county’s financial profile also reflects strong revenue growth prospects from a growing property tax base. Fitch expects the county’s long-term liability burden to remain low.”
Moody’s reported, “The stable outlook reflects the likelihood that the county’s financial position will remain sound given management’s adherence to formal fiscal policies. The outlook also reflects future growth in the county’s base given ongoing commercial and residential development spurred by proximity to the District of Columbia (AAA stable) and the institutional presence of Fort Meade, which employs approximately 15,000 Howard County residents.”
Standard & Poor’s noted, “The county continues to monitor anticipated multiyear revenue loss as a result of COVID-19, having modified both the fiscal 2020 and the current fiscal 2021 budgets while remaining committed to developing balanced budgets in the near term. We believe costs related to long-term liabilities remain affordable, particularly given the county’s sizable and wealthy tax base and management’s strong planning for current and future challenges.”