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Credit agency says county


Fitch, an international credit rating agency, said Thursday that the county's debt has a strong rating.

It affirmed "AA" ratings for the county's public utility revenue bonds and non-ad valorem revenue bonds, and said the rating outlook is stable, the county said in a press release.

Fitch also affirmed the "AA+" rating on the county's $16.7 million in outstanding general obligation bonds.

The "AA" rating on the non-ad valorem revenue bonds reflects strong debt service coverage from a diverse mix of revenue sources other than property taxes, like gas taxes, sales taxes and user fees. The county's credit remains strong from low debt levels, manageable capital needs and above average wealth levels. 

While there has been a dramatic increase in unemployment and mortgage foreclosures, both are in line with state figures. About 90 percent of the county's debt is supported by these non-ad valorem revenues.

"This is welcome news in these trying economic times, particularly considering the Board of County Commissioners' difficult task in reducing spending by $98 million over the past three years," said Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker. "The board's prudent approach to managing public funds places the county in a good position to move forward once the downturn is reversed."

"For Manatee County's taxpayers, these affirmations of strong bond ratings mean good news today and in the future," said R.B. "Chips" Shore, Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comptroller. "Today, these ratings speak highly about the financial health of our county. When the county needs to borrow in the future, these strong ratings will allow for favorable interest rates."

The revenue generated by the public utilities system -- through charges for water, sewer and garbage -- is used to support the debt service for the public utilities revenue bonds.  This revenue, after covering normal operating costs, is sufficient to meet the systems debt payments and other bond requirements.    


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