(Lawrenceville, Ga., March 8, 2017) – For 20 years, Gwinnett County has held a AAA bond rating from all three bond-rating agencies – the highest possible for local governments, allowing the County to refinance bonds at favorable interest rates. In addition to refinancing the debt, the County was also able to pay off some debt early. All of these activities combined are saving taxpayers more than $80 million in future interest payments.
Gwinnett County is one of 49 counties in the nation to have a Triple AAA bond rating. The latest rating came in December after the County’s finances went through intense review by analysts from S&P Global, Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings.
The County in January refinanced bonds used for construction of Coolray Stadium. The strong credit rating coupled with favorable market conditions resulted in lowering the interest rate from 6.25 to 3.27 percent and saving about $14 million over the life of the bonds.
“I think this demonstrates that Gwinnett County is keeping a close eye on taxpayers’ money,” said Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash. “We aren’t going to leave money on the table.”
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 said that while the credit rating is a reflection on the financial condition of the County, it is also influenced by sound management decisions and institutional practices. Woods 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.
“This Triple AAA bond rating by independent analysts tells investors that Gwinnett County is well-managed, fiscally strong and a solid investment,” Nash said. “This is a very difficult rating to achieve. A Triple AAA rating puts us in the top 2 percent of the 3,000-plus counties in America.”
The bond-rating agencies scrutinized multiple aspects of the County, including the County’s finances, management, economy, debt, and budgetary performance and flexibility
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.
Moody’s Investor Services commented that Gwinnett had a strong fiscal position bolstered by formal financial policies and conservative budgeting, low debt and pension burdens, and a large tax base with strong socio-economic factors.
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.
Cobb County is the only other county in Georgia to have a similar rating.