The Rating Outlook is Stable.
A list of individual bond series covered by this rating action commentary is included at the end of the release.
GO bonds are direct and general obligations of the county for which its full faith and credit and unlimited taxing power are pledged. The revenue bonds are secured by county payments under an interlocal agreement with the development authority and a lease agreement with the water and sewerage authority. The county's obligation under the agreements is absolute and unconditional and secured by a pledge of its full faith and credit and unlimited taxing power. The water and sewerage authority bonds are also secured by a pledge of the net revenues of the utility system.
KEY RATING DRIVERS
STRONG RESERVES: Financial resources remain considerable and in excess of conservative policy requirements.
STABLE OPERATING PERFORMANCE: Careful budgeting and financial monitoring has contributed to a lengthy history of positive operating results. The budget is dominated by property taxes, which are not legally constrained by statutory or charter restrictions.
FAVORABLE DEBT POSITION: Key debt metrics are expected to remain low given the rapid repayment of outstanding obligations and absence of additional issuance plans. General capital needs are largely funded from a voter-approved special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST).
MANAGEABLE RETIREE LIABILITIES: The county continues to address its manageable pension and other post-employment benefit (OPEB) liabilities in a prudent manner.
STRONG CREDIT FUNDAMENTALS: The county's overall financial strength and limited debt, pension, and OPEB burden combine to limit its exposure to unanticipated budgetary demands over the foreseeable future.
STRONG FUND BALANCE POSITION
The county's reserve position remains strong with an unrestricted balance in the general fund totaling
The 2012 general fund balance had stood at
STABLE TO POSITIVE OPERATING RESULTS EXPECTED IN 2014
The 2014 general fund budget appropriated a very modest
TAX BASE VALUATION UP SOLIDLY IN 2014
The county's tax digest appears to have turned a corner after losing nearly 20% of its value from 2008-2013. The 2014 valuation of
Approximately 90% of the county's direct debt is supported by revenue of the water and sewer enterprise unit. As such, net debt ratios remain low at
PRUDENT APPROACH TO FUNDING RETIREE BENEFITS
The county administers a defined benefit pension plan that was closed to new hires effective
The county has made payments in excess of the actuarial required contribution (ARC) for six consecutive years. Its total pension cost in 2013 (inclusive of the defined contribution plan for employees hired after
Retiree health benefits are provided by a county plan for which an irrevocable trust has been established, also effective
The county's close proximity to downtown
The county serves as more of a suburb to
The following is a list of Fitch-rated bonds covered by the press release:
--General obligation refunding bonds, series 2012.
--Revenue refunding bonds, series 2011, 2009, 2008, 2006, and 2005.
--Taxable revenue bonds (Recovery Zone Economic Development Bonds), series 2009.
--Revenue refunding bonds, series 2010.
--Taxable revenue bonds, series 2008.
--Revenue bonds, series 2007.
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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