Morris County has been awarded the top-ranked Triple-A bond rating from the nation’s two largest rating agencies, Moody’s Investors Services, Inc., and Standard & Poor’s, for the 45th consecutive year, with the ratings agencies saying the county’s stable management and fiscal policies should allow it to endure the current health crisis.
In particular, the ratings agencies lauded the Board of Freeholders’ response to the COVID-19 crisis, particularly creation of a COVID-19 Strategic Planning Advisory Committee, which is reviewing short-term and long-term ramifications of the health pandemic and planning a safe and prudent reopening of Morris County.
The Triple-A rating benefits county residents by allowing the county to take advantage of the best possible interest and financing rates, saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. In effect, it means the county has exceptional credit worthiness because the county can easily meet its financial commitments.
“We view positively that the county started a (COVID-19) task force looking at longer-term economic and financial impact of the pandemic on the county’s finances,’’ S&P stated in its report. “A stable outlook reflects our opinion of Morris County’s very strong and diverse economy, which we expect will show resiliency during this economic downturn.’’
Moody’s stated: “While many local governments have seen seriously deleterious financial impacts thanks to the pandemic, Morris County appears to be weathering the storm more smoothly than most.’’
S&P awarded its highest rating for Morris County due to some key factors:
- Very strong economy
- Very strong management
- Budgetary performance
- Very strong budget flexibility
- Very strong liquidity
- Strong institutional framework
Moody’s said the county’s current strengths include:
- Substantial tax base and diverse economy
- Strong resident wealth and income
- Financial flexibility
- Conservative fiscal management practices
“Over the years, Morris County has been proactive when it comes to planning and finance, looking at the long-term picture rather than reacting to what comes our way. I think that foresight is a key factor in our continued Triple-A status,’’ said Freeholder Director and Budget Subcommittee Chair Deborah Smith.
“They were impressed by Morris County’s reaction to COVID-19, to see how we are effectively dealing with these unprecedented issues,’’ said Freeholder John Krickus, a member of the Freeholder Budget Subcommittee. “It has taken years of hard work to put our county in such great fiscal shape to handle it, while also preparing for the future.’’
“It was gratifying to hear the ratings agencies talk about the stability of Morris County and the professionalism of county management and staff,’’ said Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo, also a member of the Freeholder Budget Subcommittee.
Morris County has had a Triple-A rating since 1975. It was the first county government in New Jersey to obtain the prestigious rating and is one of about a dozen in the nation to achieve it.
The 2020 renewed Triple A ratings were made after a county finance team, comprised of Freeholders, the County Administrator, Assistant County Administrator, County’s Chief Financial Officer, and others made virtual presentations to ratings agencies last month.