Sarasota County earns AAA general credit rating from both Fitch, S&P

Bonds issued for The Legacy Trail extension projects also rated AAA

This graphic shows the three segments of the North Extension of The Legacy Trail. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Sarasota County’s general credit rating and the rating on its general obligation (GO) bonds, issued for The Legacy Trail Extension project, recently earned an AAA rating from both S&P Global Rating and Fitch Ratings, the county has announced.

Those ratings reflect “the county’s continued financial stability and pragmatic practices,” an April 2 county news release says.

The Legacy Trail project, which voters approved through a bond referendum in November 2018, will expand the existing trail to allow for walking, biking and running from the city of North Port to downtown Sarasota, the county news release points out.

The S&P Global AAA rating on the GO bonds reflects that “Sarasota County has exhibited strong and positive financial results adding to its reserve position in recent years,” according to information from S&P Global, the news release adds.

Considering recent COVID-19 disruptions, the S&P statement noted that “the county has a material amount of combined reserves available for emergencies and contingencies and have demonstrated an ability to manage reserves,” the news release says.

“These latest ratings are yet another positive sign of the financial health of Sarasota County as an organization and as a community,” said Sarasota County Administrator Jonathan Lewis in the news release. “The independent ratings agencies have affirmed what we already know about the county’s sound financial operations and the continued prudent actions of our county commission,” he added in the release.

Image from the Fitch Ratings website

Fitch Ratings’ AAA rating on GO bonds reflects “the county’s consistent maintenance of high general fund reserves, and solid expenditure control, provide the county with the ability to maintain a high level of fundamental financial flexibility through economic cycles and should provide sufficient resources to endure the current environment,” Fitch said in its announcement.

“It is encouraging to see that in light of the current uncertain economic conditions brought about by COVID-19 that the rating agencies see the efforts that past and present county commissioners have made to build, and hold onto, the financial reserves necessary for the county to successfully move forward,” said Deputy County Administrator and Chief Financial Officer Steve Botelho in the news release. “The County Commission takes these ratings very seriously, and they are always considered in all of the county’s major financial decisions,” Botelho added in the news release.

S&P Ratings indicated that its rating reflects “important credit factors for the county, including a strong economy, strong management, with strong financial policies and practices, operating surpluses, budget flexibility, liquidity, low overall net debt levels and a strong institutional framework,” the news release points out.

More information about The Legacy Trail Extension project may be found by visiting this link. The Trail will connect from Culverhouse Nature Park on Palmer Ranch to Payne Park in downtown Sarasota. Additionally, county staff is at work on a formal extension from Venice to North Port.