The three top rating services – Moody’s Investment Service, Standard & Poors and Fitch Ratings – have separately confirmed Westchester’s triple A credit ratings, according to County Executive Robert P. Astorino.
“Westchester County remains the only county in New York State with three triple A bond ratings,” said Astorino. “This is recognition of our prudent financial practices. In practical terms, the triple A ratings are critically important because they lower our borrowing costs and that translates into savings to taxpayers.”
Westchester expects to refinance $20.7 million in debt this week. Because of its triple A ratings and record low interest rates, the Astorino expects to save about $1 million in interest payments.
Moody’s released its report on Thursday. S&P and Fitch released its ratings late Friday afternoon.
In its report, Fitch called the county’s outlook stable. The report commended the county for “a demonstrated willingness to reduce expenditures to moderate larger budget gaps and budget conservatively” but cautioned that “increased costs including pension and labor are a challenge for the county in reversing a trend of five straight years of fund balance declines.”
On Wednesday, Westchester County officially “closed its books” for 2011, marking the first decrease in a decade in the county’s property tax levy. To strengthen its financial position in 2012, the county’s current budget was balanced without having to draw down the fund balance.
In its report, Moody’s affirmed the county’s top rating, but with a negative outlook. The negative outlook is no change from Moody’s position in November, and focuses on the past use of fund balance. “The negative outlook reflects the county’s structural imbalance in prior years that has driven reserve declines which may limit the county’s financial feasibility and ability to respond to mid year revue or expenditure fluctuations,” it said.
S&P affirmed the triple A rating on Friday with a stable outlook. Its report will be issued today.