Fitch and Standard & Poors rate Sarasota County utility bonds AA+

Utility system planning to issue new revenue bonds to pay for improvements

Steve Botelho. Photo courtesy Sarasota County
Steve Botelho. Photo courtesy Sarasota County

Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services both have announced that approximately $209.5 million of Sarasota County’s Utility System bonds will maintain their current AA+ rating with a stable outlook, the county has announced.

In addition, the utility system is in the process of issuing $17.6 million in revenue bonds for improvements to the water, wastewater and reuse systems, along with $43.3 million in revenue refunding bonds to save on interest payments, a county news release notes. Both bonds were also provided with AA+ ratings from both Fitch and Standard & Poors, the release points out.

“According to Fitch, which is based in New York, the ratings are characterized by several factors, including the utility systems’ strong financial performance, low debt, solid operating profile, manageable system expansion [and] solid service area fundamentals,” as well as for exceeding the agency’s current rating criteria, the release adds.

The Standard & Poor’s notification said the “county’s stable and diverse customer base, adequate capacity for both water and wastewater treatment, good operational and financial management frameworks, extremely strong history of all-in debt service coverage, and extremely strong liquidity also contributed to an affirmed AA+ rating,” the release points out.

Standard & Poors is based in New York, as well.

Assistant County Administrator Steve Botelho, who also serves as the county’s chief financial management officer, says the bond rating represents the cautious and responsible management of public funds by county officials, the release continues.

“Our responsibility as stewards of these funds drives the hard work done by county staff, and that hard work is reflected in these ratings,” Botelho said in the release. “Our rating outlook moving forward is also stable, which is another indicator of the county being in a strong financial position,” Botelho added in the release.

Fitch Ratings also believes that Sarasota County’s modest debt structure and growing economic base will continue to have a positive impact on the bond rating, the release notes.

“Sarasota County continues to be proactive managing our reserve funds,” said County Administrator Tom Harmer in the release. “It’s a combination of factors — such as those strong reserve fund policies, our overall financial capacity and conservative spending — that keeps our outlook stable and maintains the county’s high-level ratings.”

The utility system bonds will be sold in the next few weeks

by City Group Global Markets Inc. as senior manager and RBC Capital Markets LLC and Raymond James & Associates Inc. as co-manager, the release says.