Fitch highlights City Commission’s 2019 approval of 10-year master plan for Utilities Department as key factor in its action
Fitch Ratings has affirmed the AA rating for the City of Sarasota’s water and sewer revenue bonds, with a stable outlook, City Manager Tom Barwin has reported.
“This is a significant achievement and a key indicator of the City’s financial health and utilities systems management,” Barwin wrote in his Sept. 25 newsletter. “Our general obligation bonds have already been rated AA+ by Fitch, and these top tier ratings allow the City to borrow at lower costs, which helps us continue to be responsible stewards of utility system customers’ dollars and the environment,” he pointed out.
In Fitch’s review of the city’s three water and sewer system bonds, Barwin continued, the firm noted the ratings were driven by the city’s “very strong financial profile,” robust liquidity, ongoing service area growth, low operating cost burden and responsible rate structure. Fitch also specifically highlighted the Utilities Department’s 10-year master plan, which the City Commission approved in 2019, as a key rating driver, Barwin added.
The master plan will allow the city to fund a $300-million “overhaul of our aging water and sewer infrastructure over the next decade,” he continued. “Fitch noted that our utility bills are affordable and having this thoughtfully planned and predictable rate structure will help the City fund necessary capital improvements in the coming decade. These critical upgrades are needed to preserve and enhance the quality of service for our 20,000 water customers and 18,000 wastewater customers,” Barwin pointed out. “These planned repairs and upgrades will maintain and improve drinking water and protect the environmental health of our waterways by preventing future wastewater spills.”
Barwin concluded his comments in the newsletter with the following statement: “Congratulations to Bill Riebe and his Utilities team, with the support of Kelly Strickland and her Finance team, for these high marks from Fitch.”