Wicomico County has sold $20.3 million in general obligation bonds to finance several major projects in the county and was able to secure a low interest rate of 2.089% as a result of very favorable ratings from national credit rating agencies, County Executive Bob Culver reported this week. This compares to a rate of 2.61% last year. The County’s issue drew a strong market response of 12 bidders, which is indicative of the attractiveness of its bonds.
“We met with all three credit rating agencies in New York last month and updated them on the positive financial outlook for our county,” Culver said. “All three ratings agencies spoke highly of the county’s strong management team and their continued confidence in our conservative fiscal practices.”
Standard and Poor’s commented “We view the county’s management as very strong, with “strong” financial policies and practices under our Financial Management Assessment methodology, indicating financial practices are strong, well embedded and likely sustainable.”
Fitch wrote “Given Fitch’s assessment of the county’s inherent budget flexibility as superior, with solid control over revenues and moderate spending flexibility, Fitch expects the county to manage through economic downturns while maintaining a high level of fundamental financial flexibility”.
“The rating is based on the county’s financial operating history leading to a sound reserve position – which benefits from conservative budgeting and multi-year forecasting” according to Moody’s.
A significant portion of the bond money will be spent on projects for the Wicomico County Board of Education. That includes $7.5 million for West Salisbury Elementary School; $539,000 for projects at Parkside High School; and $161,000 for a new roof at Wicomico Middle School.
Other projects include $11 million for a new EMS radio system for all first responders including police agencies and fire companies to be able to communicate; and $1.1 million for the acquisition and renovation of a new Board of Elections building.
The County earned an AA+ rating from S&P Global Ratings; an AA rating from Fitch Ratings, and an Aa2 rating from Moody’s Investors Service; the latter two are equivalent.
Executive Culver concluded “All of these projects are important for Wicomico County, and I am pleased to report they are moving forward. Such favorable reports from the credit rating agencies reinforces that our fiscal management in Wicomico County continues to be strong.”