Worcester Scores Strong Bond Ratings

SNOW HILL — A re-evaluation of Worcester County’s Bond Ratings resulted in strong ratings from Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings, re-affirmed at Aa2 and AA, respectively, and Standard and Poor’s rating upgraded to AA+.

On the heels of the re-evaluation, the Consolidated Public Improvement Bond sale made by Worcester this week has also gone well, with an unexpectedly low interest rate of 2.67 percent nabbed.

“Yesterday was our report card,” said Commissioner Virgil Shockley Wednesday.

Shockley was pleased with how the re-evaluation of the county played out, a sentiment shared by the rest of the commissioners. The ratings reports are highly positive, with all three agencies pointing to things like Worcester’s sizable tax base, low debt burden and healthy financial position as justification for the favorable ratings.

“Congratulations on the upgrade to AA+, one notch below the pinnacle of AAA. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a rating report that contained as many ‘very strongs’ as the county’s,” wrote Sam Ketterman, the commission’s financial advisor from Davenport and Company, in an email. “It was clear during the rating meetings that the county over the years had developed responsible financial and management policies and had followed them in practice. I hope the BOCC [Board of County Commissioners] understand that this accomplishment is because of the behind the scenes effort of the county’s capable and experienced senior staff that brings all of these policies to fruition.”

The upgrade from Standard and Poor’s was especially lauded as it brings Worcester within striking distance of that perfect AAA rating.

“I’m hoping that I’m there the day we get a AAA rating,” said Shockley. “That would be really nice.”

Following the reveal of the county’s new ratings, Ketterman also briefed the commission on Tuesday morning’s sale of the 2014 Consolidated Public Improvement Bonds. Funding from the sale will be dedicated to the renovation of Snow Hill High School. While the county expected to sell those bonds at a favorable rate, the commission was surprised at how well the bid process actually played out with Worcester securing a more favorable interest rate on their bonds than either Harford or Howard counties, both of which have that prized AAA rating.

“I would say the county has an outstanding result this morning. We have received 11 bids for the bond issue,” said Ketterman. “The winning bid came in from Wells Fargo National Association at a net interest rate of 2.67-percent. The estimates that we were using for purposes of evaluation when we started this process were slightly more than 3-percent ….”