Fitch, S&P give AA+ rating to county capital improvement project bonds

Bonds to finance Downtown Cooling Plant in Sarasota and jail control and security upgrades

The county Administration Center is located at 1660 Ringling Blvd. in downtown Sarasota. File photo

Both Fitch Ratings and S&P Global Ratings have assigned AA+ ratings to Sarasota County’s capital improvement revenue bonds, series 2020, the county has announced.

Fidelity notes that the AA+ rating is the second highest Fitch and S&P give to bonds.

The bonds will be issued in the approximate amount of $18.6 million to fund projects, including the new Downtown Cooling Plant, energy conservation measure upgrades for county facilities, and jail control and security upgrades, a news release adds. (See the related story in the May 1 issue of The Sarasota News Leader.)

“The strong ratings are among the latest indicators of Sarasota County Government’s economic health, the responsible stewardship of public dollars by county commissioners, and the hard work of financial management staff,” County Administrator Jonathan Lewis noted in the release.

“These strong ratings are a great accomplishment, especially as our organization continues to navigate the uncertainty related to COVID-19,” Lewis said in the release.

“According to S&P, the rating reflects Sarasota County’s broad and diverse tax base and strong debt service coverage; while Fitch’s rating indicates that sales tax revenues will increase at a solid pace, among other factors,” the release points out. “Fitch assigned a stable outlook to the bonds, while S&P assigned a negative outlook. The negative outlook was placed on the bonds due to the uncertainty related to the impact of COVID-19 on the pledged sales tax revenues,” the release explains.

“These independent ratings agencies have affirmed what we already know about the county’s sound financial operations and the prudent actions of our County Commission,” Deputy County Administrator and Chief Financial Officer Steve Botelho said in the release. “These ratings reflect the commission’s understanding of how the county will react to the challenges we’re now facing,” Botelho added.