Board Endorses New Commitment to Enhance Bond Rating
While many localities nationally are experiencing dire fiscal situations, Stafford County’s fiscal outlook appears much more promising, positioning the County to perform well in near future. According to Fitch Ratings, a global rating service, Stafford County’s “financial performance has strengthened in recent years with a return to structural balance and increasing reserve levels despite tax base declines and dependence on economically sensitive revenues.” The ratings service made that positive declaration when announcing that Stafford would retain its AA bond rating. Moody’s Investor Services and Standard and Poors have also given Stafford a AA bond rating. Fitch made its assessment of the County as part of a routine review. In July, the Stafford Board of Supervisors approved a new plan to strengthen Stafford’s fiscal management and bond rating, revising the County’s financial guidelines. The Board increased the County’s undesignated fund balance from 10% to 11% on July 1, and set a plan in place that would increase that to 12% by 2015. As part of a new emphasis on long-term financial management, the Board established a Revenue Stabilization Fund (similar to the state’s Rainy Day Fund), a Capital Projects Reserve and a Stafford Opportunity Reserve. “Improving the County’s long-term fiscal management has been a top priority of the new Board majority, and we have taken the steps necessary to make Stafford financially sound into the next decade and beyond,” noted Aquia Supervisor Paul Milde. “We have undertaken stringent measures during tough economic times, but that is necessary to better prepare Stafford for a prosperous – and financially secure – future. Taxpayers have a right to expect value for their tax dollars, and one of the best ways to ensure that is to strengthen the County’s bond rating.” According to Fitch, Stafford’s debt levels are moderate and expected to remain stable. Noting that Stafford’s economic growth is likely to continue at a measured pace, which the rating agency says will allow “management to address infrastructure expansion and renewal in a timely manner without
undue fiscal strain.”
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