County’s financial stability earns high ratings from New York firms

Fitch and Standard and Poor’s actions affirm ‘strong management practices,’ county administrator says

File photo
File photo

Fitch Ratings and Standard and Poor’s Rating Services (S&P) both have announced that Sarasota County’s financial stability remains strong, and its outlook, stable, the county has announced.

New York-based Fitch Ratings affirmed the county’s AAA issuer credit rating (IDR) and also affirmed AA+ ratings for the county’s Infrastructure Sales Surtax Tax Bonds, Series 2008A, 2008B, 2015 and 2015; Communication Services Tax Revenue Bonds, Series 2006 and 2010; Capital Improvement Revenue Bonds, Series 2010A and 2010B; and Second Guarantee Entitlement Revenue Bonds, Series 2013, a county news release says.

“The county’s ‘AAA’ IDR reflects ample revenues and expenditure control and sound financial operations. Low long-term liabilities relative to the county’s resource base, and a high general fund balance provide additional stability,” Fitch indicated, the release adds.

In addition, S&P, which is also based in New York, announced that it has affirmed its AAA issuer credit rating (ICR) for Sarasota County, and the county’s limited ad valorem tax bonds rating was raised from A- to AA+. The bonds provide funds for the county’s Environmentally Sensitive Lands Protection and Parklands Program, the release explains.

“The outlook reflects our view of the county’s strong economy that continues to recover from the latest recession, along with its very strong budgetary flexibility, liquidity, and debt profile,” S&P stated, the release notes. “The outlook further reflects our view of the county’s very strong management practices and policies,” the S&P statement added.

“Many factors played a part in the improved ratings and the affirmed insurer credit rating,” including healthful reserve levels, expenditure control, expanded employment opportunities, increased tourism and retail sales growth, the news release continues.

“According to County Administrator Tom Harmer, the bond rating represents the cautious and responsible management of public funds by county officials, and also reflects the county’s strong economy and capacity to meet future needs,” the release points out.

“Our board’s strategic approach to fiscal policy and recognition by the rating agencies of our strong management practices allow us to access debt at a very competitive rate, which minimizes the impact to our tax and rate payers,” Harmer said in the release. “Our outlook moving forward is also stable, which is another indicator of the county being in a strong financial position.”

“Both ratings services also believe that Sarasota County’s key financial policies and practices, along with a modest debt structure and growing economic base, will continue to have a positive impact on the bond ratings going forward,” the release notes.