Bond Agencies Hear ‘A Good Story’ With County Tour

SNOW HILL – Two major credit rating agencies toured the Ocean City area this week as Worcester County prepares for the bond market.

Officials provided representatives from two credit rating companies with a tour highlighting local attractions on Tuesday. While officials typically share the county’s pertinent information during a meeting on Wall Street, this year they opted to give the agencies a firsthand look at what the county has going for it.

“We were very glad they were willing to come down,” said Weston Young, the county’s chief administrative officer. “We showed them a small snapshot of Worcester County.”

Typically, any time the county prepares to go to the bond market local officials travel to New York to meet with bond rating agencies. The companies want to assess the county’s financial condition before assigning a rating.

“They want a fresh rating,” Young said. “It’s similar to a credit score. They don’t use your credit score from a year ago when you go to buy a car.”

The agencies review things like the county’s revenues, expenditures, primary funding sources, population and the like.  While local officials have often made the trip to Wall Street to present that information, this time they opted to invite representatives of Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s down to Worcester County.

“There’s an excitement firsthand that you don’t get just staring at a packet on the 57th floor of some skyscraper,” Young said.

Also on Tuesday, county leaders were joined by representatives of Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s on a bus. They then visited downtown Berlin, Ocean City, Assateague Island and Windmill Creek Vineyard and Winery.

“They got to see Ocean City packed, the amount of development going on, they got to visit Assateague and hear about the park’s record visitation, and on top of that we gave our typical presentation,” Young said. “We have a good story to tell.”

Information presented included the county’s assessed real property value, which was $15 billion in 2017 and is estimated to exceed $17.5 billion in 2023, as well as the fact that the county’s reserve fund balance has increased to 12% of its expenditures in recent years. Leaders touted Worcester’s property tax rate, the second lowest in the state, and income tax rate, the lowest in the state.

Young said officials also talked about the county’s ability to weather the pandemic. According to the Worcester County Treasurer’s Office, while there was a slight dip in gross hotel, motel and condominium rental revenue in the county in 2020, by 2021 the revenue had grown to $501,577,871, even exceeding the 2019 revenue of $403,728,726.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.