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Sussex County earns top bond ratings

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GEORGETOWN —  Sussex County received the highest bond ratings possible from both Standard and Poor’s (S&P) Global and Moody Investor Service for its $94.1 million general obligation bonds last week.

S&P upgraded Sussex County from its AA+ rating, citing the county’s “diversifying and growing economy and its strong financial management practices that … have led to very strong budgetary performance over several years, including the current and past recessions.”

The news was heralded by Sussex County Finance Director Gina Jennings in a Sept. 11 press release, calling such a feat “unheard of” during unprecedented economic times.

“I’m proud that the county has earned the confidence of both credit rating agencies, and even more proud of the fact that our sound and prudent financial management continues to benefit the citizens we serve,” Jennings said in a statement.

Bond ratings carry heavy weight because higher grades translate into lower interest costs in repayment of the bonds. Rating agencies look at a variety of criteria, including a state’s economy, government’s financial performance and management, debt load, long-term costs, and political structure.

Municipalities and states which analysts believe could withstand recessions or economic downturns are awarded higher ratings and seen as safer risks.

This marks the second upgrade in 14 months, as Moody Investor Services raised the county to Aaa in July 2019. Moody also retained the high credit rating of its review last week.

“[The rating] reflects the county’s substantial tax base that has been on a strong growth pattern, very strong finances despite having economically sensitive revenues, and low long-term liabilities,” Moody analysts wrote in a report issued Sept. 10.

Both agencies assessed Sussex County for being well-positioned for the economic pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic. S&P praised the county for its “conservative and prudent budgeting practices,” while Moody saw no immediate risks given its “strong financial position and solid tax base.”


By Katie Tabeling

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