The Rating Outlook is Stable
The GO bonds carry the county's full faith and credit and unlimited taxing power. Outstanding series 2009 bonds are payable first from the proceeds of a one percent special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) collected within the county.
KEY RATING DRIVERS
STRONG FINANCIAL PROFILE: Financial operations are characterized by consistent operating surpluses, robust reserve levels and conservative financial policies.
STRONG MILITARY PRESENCE: The local economy has remained relatively stable and is anchored by a strong and growing military presence. Relatively low unemployment, above-average wealth levels and minimal housing pressures support stability.
FAVORABLE DEBT PROFILE: Debt levels are low, amortization is rapid, and long-term obligations related to pension and other post-employment benefit (OPEB) costs are nominal.
STABLE CREDIT PROFILE: The rating is sensitive to shifts in fundamental credit characteristics including the county's strong financial management practices. The Stable Outlook reflects Fitch's expectation that such shifts are highly unlikely.
The county is located on the border of
CONTINUED STRONG FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE
The county's financial position is characterized by conservative budgeting practices and robust reserve levels. The county consistently follows its fund balance policy which calls for a minimum fund balance of 27% of general fund spending and requires reserves over 50% to be used for debt reduction. The county posted a
ROBUST SPLOST REVENUES
The county has historically paid debt service on the series 2009 bonds from SPLOST revenues. SPLOST requires voter renewal every five years and the current SPLOST is authorized through calendar year 2016. The county has scheduled an additional SPLOST referendum for the
STABLE LOCAL ECONOMY
The county benefits from its close proximity to
The county's unemployment rate in
Fitch expects the county's overall debt burden to remain low given modest needs and rapid amortization. Overall debt is low at
The county and its qualified employees participate in the Columbia County Money Purchase Retirement Plan, a defined contribution retirement plan. The county's unfunded other post-employment benefits (OPEB) liability is a negligible 0.03% of market value. Annual payments reflect only 1% of the ARC but Fitch believes full ARC funding would not apply pressure to operations. Carrying costs for debt service (11.6% of governmental expenditures in fiscal 2013) and retirement benefits (2.2% and 0.5% for pension contributions and OPEB, respectively) are affordable.
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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