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Bond rating agencies give Gwinnett County top grades for management, fiscal policies

All three bond rating agencies have once again given Gwinnett County an AAA/Aaa bond rating, the highest possible, placing Gwinnett in the top 2 percent of counties in the nation for fiscal soundness. This marks the 21st consecutive year Gwinnett has held this distinction.

The stellar rating allows the County to issue or refinance bonds at favorable rates, which reduces the interest paid by taxpayers.

Gwinnett County is one of fewer than 50 counties of approximately 3,000 counties nationwide to have a Triple AAA bond rating. The latest rating came after the County’s financial management practices and financial results went through intense review by analysts from S&P Global, Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings.

“The rating agencies do a thorough review of your finances, your operations, and your policies,” said Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlotte Nash. “To receive a Triple AAA bond rating is a strong vote of confidence by independent experts that Gwinnett County is well-managed, fiscally strong and a solid investment. This is a very difficult rating to achieve.”

Financial Services Director Maria Woods said, “The Triple AAA bond rating means the County can borrow money at most-favorable interest rates at the time the bonds are issued and also refinance the bonds when the market improves and interest rates drop.” Woods stated that while the credit rating is a reflection of the financial condition of the County, it is also influenced by sound management decisions and institutional practices. She credited the Board of Commissioners for fiscal flexibility, smart debt management and financial policies such as multi-year planning, controlling expenditures and a pay-as-you-go capital program.

The rating review came as the County, through its Development Authority, seeks to go to the bond market to issue $96.1 million in bonds to fund construction at the Infinite Energy Center, including expansion of the conference center, a new parking deck and other improvements on the campus. This is the first construction bond issue by Gwinnett County in nearly 10 years.

Fitch Ratings’ report cited the County’s strong revenue and expenditure flexibility, its maintenance of healthy reserves, low long-term liabilities and prudent fiscal management through conservative budgeting without the use of reserves.

Moody’s Investor Services commented that Gwinnett had a strong fiscal position bolstered by formal financial policies and conservative budgeting, and low debt because of its SPLOST revenues.

S&P Global reported that Gwinnett had very strong management with strong financial policies and practices, strong budgetary performance, and held a very strong debt and contingent liability position.