The current offerings will finance various equipment purchases and capital improvements at the county zoo, solid waste facility and airport. The bonds and notes are expected to price via competition on
Additionally, Fitch affirms approximately
The Rating Outlook is Stable.
The county pledges its full faith and credit and unlimited taxing power for the repayment of principal and interest.
KEY RATING DRIVERS
CONTINUING STRUCTURAL BALANCE: Fitch believes the county has restored structural balance as demonstrated by recent positive operating margins, improved reserves, and an ability to maintain adequate financial flexibility under a recent, more restrictive state law limiting revenue growth.
STRONG FISCAL MANAGEMENT: Financial management is strong and has improved with more conservative budgeting and recent implementation of multi-year forecasting.
FAVORABLE ECONOMIC PROFILE: The county benefits from above-average wealth levels, low unemployment, and a historically stable economic base centered on the state capital of
MANAGEABLE LONG-TERM LIABILITIES: The overall debt burden is moderate and amortization is rapid. Pension costs should remain manageable, given state-wide changes in employee contributions. Other post-employment benefit (OPEB) costs are minimal.
MAINTENANCE OF FINANCIAL FLEXIBILITY AND DEBT PROFILE: Maintenance of the current rating is dependent on the county's ability to maintain structural balance, adequate financial flexibility, and moderate debt levels.
EVIDENCE OF ONGOING STRUCTURAL BALANCE
Fitch believes that the county has restored structural balance and demonstrated an ability to maintain adequate financial flexibility despite a 2011 state law that limits growth in property tax revenue. Strong positive operating margins in 2011 and 2012 reflect a willingness to enhance general fund position with recurring and one-time revenues, economic recovery in sales and property tax collections, and more conservative budgeting.
The county exceeded budget in 2012 with a
The county continued efforts to augment its fund balance with its 2013 budget, which contained a
Management indicates that fiscal 2014 GF performance is tracking positively to budget with continued sales tax revenue growth, up 8% in the first quarter compared to 2013. Management projects additional budget upside from continued declines in delinquent property taxes and positive variances in human services. Fitch believes that such projections are reasonable given year-to-date performance and the county's conservative budgeting approach.
The county implemented multi-year financial projections with its 2013 budget which shows manageable out-year deficits of
STRONG, STABLE, DIVERSE ECONOMY
The county's economy is resilient and wealthy. Per capita money income, which is negatively skewed by a large student population, is nonetheless above both the state (122%) and national (119%) averages. Residents are highly educated with 45% reporting attaining higher education as compared with the national average of 28%.
The economic base is diverse, anchored by government, education, healthcare, and insurance. Top employers include the federal, state, and county governments,
Taxable assessed valuation contracted modestly from 2010 through 2013 and is marginally up for 2014. Management's current projections through 2017 are for 1.5% assessed valuation growth, which Fitch feels is reasonable given recent evidence of housing market recovery and current new development activity.
MANAGEABLE LONG-TERM LIABILITIES
The county's credit profile benefits from moderate overall debt, rapid amortization (84% retired in 10 years), and manageable future borrowing plans. Overall debt is
The county participates in a state-run defined benefit pension plan, which is well funded at nearly 100% as of its 2012 valuation or a Fitch-estimated 98% under a 7% rate of return assumption. Actuarially-based payments for the plan are low at
The county's other post-employment benefits are limited to an implicit rate subsidy, which the county funds on a pay-go basis and represented 0.3% of governmental (net of capital) fund spending in 2012; Had the county funded its ARC, the payment would still have represented a low 1.8%. The county's unfunded actuarially accrued liability is minimal at less than 0.1% of market value.
The county's cost of carry of debt, pension, and OPEB is low at 9.9% of governmental fund spending.
Additional information is available at 'www.fitchratings.com'.
In addition to the sources of information identified in Fitch's Tax-Supported Rating Criteria, this action was additionally informed by information from Creditscope,
--'Tax-Supported Rating Criteria' (
--'U.S. Local Government Tax-Supported Rating Criteria' (
Tax-Supported Rating Criteria
U.S. Local Government Tax-Supported Rating Criteria
Source: Fitch Ratings
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