A good Moody’s rating means lower interest rates when the county issues bonds to pay for new capital projects like roads and refinances old loans.
Two years ago, Moody's lowered the county's bond rating, citing pension obligations and "narrow" fund reserves among other concerns. Moody's also lowered the TID rating to Aa3 but now has upgraded that score to Aa2, because the county's rating directly impacts the TID, according to County Administrator Charlie Young.
The Moody’s analysts noted the county’s aggressive approach to righting what was once — not so long ago — a financial sinking ship, as one reason for the upgrade.
“The stable outlook reflects our expectation that continued economic development, growth in financial reserves and retirement of debt will support credit stability,” the report reads.
Just seven years ago county officials were considering a sales tax increase, until it downsized and reined in wage increase policies, among other measures.
Since then the commissioners have established a budget stabilization fund that will contain $6 million at year's end; instituted pay-for-performance to keep labor costs down; and committed to retire all of its general obligation debt by 2020.
The debt that stood at $91.3 million in 2009, was down to $43 million last year and will be zero by 2020 under the county’s debt reduction acceleration plan.
The cash balance at the close of 2012 was $10 million, and last year it was a “healthy” 32.1 percent — or $28.8 million — of revenues, according to Moody’s.
Brossart said he believes there are only two counties in the state with Moody’s highest rating, and he thinks Butler County can be one of them sooner rather than later.
The speed in which the county re-established its rating might be record-setting, according to Finance Director Tawana Keels. It usually takes three years to have an upgrade considered, but she said officials pushed to get it sooner.