Baltimore County Once Again Earns Triple Triple-A Bond Rating
Most Recent Bond Sale Saves Taxpayers $7.1 Million
Towson, Maryland (June 6, 2014) – On June 5, 2014, Baltimore County sold $60,320,000 of general obligation refunding bonds at a rate of 0.98 percent, creating a savings for County taxpayers of approximately $7.1 million over the next six years. The bonds were rated Triple-A by Moody's Investor Service, Standard and Poor's Rating Services, and Fitch Ratings. A Triple-A rating is the highest possible rating for a municipality and allows the County to issue its bonds at the lowest possible interest rate. The County is one of only 38 counties nationwide that has been assigned this rating by all three rating agencies, a triple Triple-A rating.
"I am very pleased that Baltimore County is once again being recognized as one of the best managed counties in the nation," said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. "We know that our responsible fiscal management allows us to make significant contributions to our three priorities: public education, public safety, and rebuilding our aging infrastructure. It is what County taxpayers have come to expect."
Below are excerpts from each report:
Standard and Poor's
We consider Baltimore County's economy to be strong because of its access to the broad and diverse Baltimore area regional economy. The county anchors the Baltimore metropolitan statistical area as its economy remains centered on health care, education, high-tech manufacturing, government employment, and financial services.
There are five regional medical centers and five major colleges and universities within the county, which we believe provides employment stability. The Social Security Administration's headquarters is in the county; and had an increase in employees in recent years. Despite the federal government's strong presence in the county and region-wide, the county estimates just 5 percent of its residents are federal employees and just 5 percent of its employment base consists of federal jobs. The county also maintains a significant agricultural presence in its northern section. County unemployment, at 6.9 percent in 2013, has historically tracked slightly higher than that of the state yet has been below the national average. The county has per capita incomes we consider strong, reflective of the residents' ability to access jobs throughout the regional economy.
The stable outlook reflects the expectation that the county will continue to maintain a healthy financial position that is supported by conservative budgeting practices, comprehensive fiscal policies, and the maintenance of satisfactory fund balance levels despite the annual appropriation of fund equity for non-recurring uses. In addition, the stable outlook also reflects the county's sizable and diverse tax base that is expected to continue to benefit from its strategic geographic location and institutional strengths.
The employment base is broad and deep. Federal installations, health care, financial services, and higher education predominate, with skilled manufacturing and technology becoming a growing sector and major focus of economic development. The county is home to several government agencies including the Social Security Administration and Medicare and Medicaid Services, which combined employ 16,000 people. However, federal employment represents only 5 percent of the total employment base limiting its exposure to any potential federal downsizing. Residential unemployment (6.1 percent in March 2014) compares favorably with that of the U.S. (6.8 percent) although slightly exceeds the state average (5.8 percent). Wealth indicators are around those of the affluent region and state, but are well above the U.S. average. Population growth is directed towards two areas anchored by major transportation networks, and preliminary engineering studies have begun for construction of a new light rail line to connect with existing regional rail lines. Fitch believes intermediate and long-range overall economic growth prospects are strong.
Responsible Fiscal Management
"Once again, I can't stress enough why the County's history of fiscal management matters. My most recent budget outlined a 'Schools for Our Future' program that commits more than $1.1 billion to school construction projects, eliminating school overcrowding in every region of the County, while air conditioning every Baltimore County elementary and middle school. We are building 16 new schools and 10 additions. Because of our responsible fiscal management, we are able to fund the historic 'Schools for Our Future' program, and we've done it all without raising property tax and income tax rates for a quarter of a century."