The credit rating agency Fitch Ratings Inc., has affirmed Maricopa County’s AAA bond rating, saying county management has used “strong and historically prudent fiscal practices” that ensure “an exceptionally strong level of financial resilience throughout the economic cycle,” according to a press release from the county.
Among the reasons listed for Maricopa County’s high rating: a moderate long-term liability burden; a growing, diverse economy that is expected to create additional revenue; a historically robust reserve cushion; and financial flexibility stemming, in part, from the county’s practice of taxing below maximum allowable rates, according to the release.
“This rating is a point of pride for all of us on the board,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Denny Barney, District 1, said in the release. “It means we’re doing the job we were elected to do: managing taxpayer resources wisely and ensuring that the county is in good financial shape, regardless of economic conditions.”
In a county growing so rapidly, a high bond rating means faster response to the increased demand for services, all at a lower cost to taxpayers. This rating allows Maricopa County to do more with fewer tax dollars because county bonds can be issued at lower interest rates, according to the release.
“Maricopa County has a rich history of fiscal responsibility, and I intend to continue down that path as chairman,” Chairman Barney said. “By planning for worst case scenarios and making smart, targeted investments that we know we can afford, we’ll ensure we are competitive in the short term and flexible in the long-term.”
Fitch Ratings issues two different ratings to government entities such as Maricopa County. The long-term issuer default rating applies to situations in which the county is considering voter-approved, or General Obligation, debt. Maricopa County’s IDR is AAA, the highest possible. The second rating concerns certificates of participation. These are county loans that are annually appropriated. Maricopa County had $185.6 million COP’s, series 2015, and these were rated AA+, the highest possible COP rating.