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Washington County credit rating now AAA, according to Moddy's

Washington County’s credit rating is on the rise.

On Friday, July 1, the county received its first ever “Aaa” bond rating from Moody’s Investors Services, the county said in a release.

The improved credit rating comes more than a month after county voters approved a $77 million bond to upgrade the city’s aging 911 emergency communications system.

In May, Washington County voters approved a $77 million bond measure to install new 911 towers across the country, perform seismic upgrades on emergency facilities and replace about 3,000 analog radios in use across the county.

Philip Bransford, a spokesman for the county, said that the improved rating will help the county save money on the project.

“(The improved rating) means less government resources going to a core function of emergency communications,” he said. “It means the cost of incurring debt will be less than it would have been. And that will help the implementation of the voters’ will.”

The bond rating is a grade used to indicate the quality of county’s financial strength. The county is preparing to issue the bonds, Bransford said, which prompted Moody’s to re-examine Washington County’s credit rating.

“In this case the county was approaching the municipal bond market with a sale,” Bransford said. “It’s part of the process of pursing general obligation debt for ratings agencies to take a look at the health of the agency that is incurring the debt.”

According to Moody’s, the rating is meant to better reflect the county's large tax base, strong local economy, above average resident wealth, healthy financial position, and very low level of direct debt.

"We're very pleased with this news," Washington County Board Chairman Andy Duyck said in a release. “…It reflects the county's commitment to long-term financial stability and to providing relevant and quality services, within our available resources.”

Moody’s and other private rating services evaluate bond issuers across the country on a scale from D to Aaa, the highest possible rating.

Earlier this year, the investment firm gave Washington County its second-highest rating, which allowed the county to refinance its 2006 bonds at lower borrowing costs, which is expected to save taxpayers about $5 million in debt service costs over the life of the bonds.

By Geoff Pursinger
Associate Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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