Fitch affirms AA+ credit rating for Sarasota County’s utility system revenue bonds

Report covers $157.4 million in outstanding county utility system revenue bonds

The county Administration Center is located in downtown Sarasota. File photo

Fitch Ratings recently affirmed an AA+ credit rating for Sarasota County’s utility system revenue and refunding bonds, “indicating a healthy financial position and a stable outlook,” the county has announced.

Fitch’s report notes that the AA+ rating “is driven by the utility’s well-managed finances, solid free cash flow leading to strong debt service coverage, ample and diverse water supply sources and wastewater capacity that is continuously undergoing expansion and improvement,” the release explains.

“Sarasota County is committed to fiscal sustainability while providing quality services to our utility customers,” said Sarasota County Administrator Jonathan Lewis in the release. “The affirmed ratings reflect the key strengths of the county’s utility system operation, the prudent actions of our Board of County Commissioners and our professional staff and the improving local economy,” he added in the release.

The Fitch report goes on to mention that the utility “‘has maintained reliable service and financial stability amid the acquisition of thousands of new water and sewer customers in recent years,’” the release points out.

Fitch’s report covers the county’s $157.4 million in outstanding utility system revenue bonds that are secured by a senior lien on the net revenues and legally available impact fees that come from operating the county’s water and sewer system, the release explains. The utility system has a total indebtedness of $266.2 million, the release notes. The county serves a customer base of approximately 88,000 water and 81,000 wastewater accounts, it adds.

“These ratings are a testament to the hard work of staff from our Public Utilities department as well as our Office of Financial Management, which oversees the county’s finances and strives to maintain our strong financial position going forward,” said Deputy County Administrator Steve Botelho, who also serves as the county’s chief financial management officer, in the release.