County earns AAA rating

FREEHOLD — Monmouth County’s bonds have been granted AAA ratings by Fitch, Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s, the three largest bond rating agencies.

Only a few dozen counties throughout the United States have been granted AAA ratings, the highest rating, and only a handful can claim they have received the highest score from all three major rating agencies, according to Mark E. Acker, Monmouth County’s finance director.

Each bond rating agency said it granted the AAA rating in recognition of Monmouth County’s solid financial management, stable growth and low debt burden. As a result, each agency also awarded the county a favorable stable future outlook.

“This shows us once again that Monmouth County is in good hands and continues to move in the right direction,” Freeholder Director Thomas J. Powers said. “We have enjoyed an AAA bond rating since 1996. I commend Mr. Acker for his handling of the county’s finances.”

According to Standard and Poor’s, the AAA bond rating reflects the county’s strong local economy anchored by the services, retail trade and health care industries; substantial and rapidly growing tax base; wealth and income levels that exceed state and national levels; regular operating surpluses and high current fund balances, and manageable overall debt.

“Monmouth County has historically maintained a strong financial position,” S&P reported in its credit profile of the county. “The stable outlook reflects the expectation that the county’s local economy will continue to diversify and grow.”

“I am very pleased that Monmouth County was rewarded once again for its continued demonstration of sound, fiscal management,” Freeholder Amy H. Handlin said. “Being conservative with our expenditures and maintaining very low debt levels have allowed us greater flexibility in providing a greater number of services to our residents. These are just some of the reasons why Monmouth County is such an ideal place to live, work and raise a family.”

Moody’s Investors Service cited strong financial operations resulting from conservative budgetary assumptions for revenues and good control of expenditures. “As a result of these practices, the county has consistently maintained or increased fund balances with annual operating surpluses,” the agency’s report on Monmouth County said.

Fitch also pointed to the county’s solid financial management, which it said has resulted in continued strong operation and financial flexibility, stable growth in its $90 billion tax base, and low direct debt levels with rapid amortization.

“Monmouth County continues to experience positive employment growth and office vacancy rates well below the state average,” Fitch said in its report. “Fund balances continued to grow in 2004 due to the county’s conservative budget practices, expenditure controls and healthy flow of revenue driven by a vibrant tax base. The county’s financial position is excellent.”