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Howard gets AAA credit ratings

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Howard County, for the 23rd consecutive year, the county 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 46 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 […] and expects the natural pace of general fund revenues to perform in line with GDP over the long term based on strong economic activity and continued investment in the county.”

Moody’s reported, “Howard County is not susceptible to immediate material credit risks related to coronavirus. The longer-term impact will depend on both the severity and duration of the crisis. The situation surrounding coronavirus is rapidly evolving. If our view of the credit quality of Howard County changes, we will publish our updated opinion at that time.

Moody’s also indicates the credit strengths of the county include: a “Large tax base with strong institutional presence and proximity to the Baltimore-Washington metro area, above average wealth and income levels” and that the “management team practices conservative budgeting and maintains formal fiscal policies.”

Standard & Poor’s noted, “We view the county’s management as very strong, with strong financial policies and practices under our Financial Management Assessment methodology, indicating financial practices are strong, well embedded, and likely sustainable.

Conservative budgeting practices, several formal and well-adhered to fiscal policies, active participation by the county’s 22-member Spending Affordability Advisory Committee (SAAC) and coupled with a well-seasoned management team has aided in its sound financial position.”

The full bond rating reports are available at: www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/FInance/Financial-Information/Bonds

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