Home Banking & Finance Credit agencies give Westchester County high scores

Credit agencies give Westchester County high scores

Robert P. Astorino is citing strong ratings by three credit agencies to bolster his record in the waning days of his tenure as county executive.

“Three independent groups have looked at the county’s finances,” Astorino said in a news release, “and have reaffirmed that we are on solid fiscal footing because of our responsible fiscal management.”

westchester county credit agenciesAstorino, a Republican, has long touted a record of keeping property tax levies flat by controlling the county budget.

Democrats, including County Executive-elect George Latimer who defeated Astorino in November, have countered that Astorino postponed financial obligations and filled short-term budget holes with one-shot deals.

The Democratic Caucus, for instance, said that Astorino has irresponsibly included a potential $29 million from a proposed airport deal in his 2018 budget.

“Our independent auditors have seen the trend of the outgoing administration’s budgets heading toward insolvency each year,” Majority Leader Catherine Borgia said in a news release, “but this one is the most egregious.”

The credit agencies paint a positive picture.

Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s give Westchester their top grades, AAA. Moody’s Investment Services rates the county at its second highest level, Aa1.

All three ratings are considered investment grade.

The Fitch and S&P opinions mean that they think the county has an extremely strong capacity to meet its financial commitments. Moody’s opinion indicates a very strong capacity to meet financial commitments.

From the point of view of investors, high credit worthiness means low risk. Therefore, investors receive lower interest payments and the county spends less to repay it debt.

Astorino claims taxpayers are saving millions of dollars a year on interest costs.

The credit agencies noted that the county faces uncertain sales tax revenue and high pension costs.

Fitch cited Westchester’s strong economy, low unemployment and the county’s stable general fund reserves.

S&P singled out the county for budget flexibility and liquidity. But it raised concerns about the potential impact of proposed federal tax reform that might eliminate mortgage interest deductions and state and local tax deductions.

Moody’s described the county fiscal management as very conservative, and noted that the county frequently monitors the budget, identifies shortfalls and works to close gaps.

Moody’s and Fitch gave Westchester a stable outlook. S&P said there was a 30 percent chance of a future negative scenario.

2 COMMENTS

  1. So Latimer was lying all along? I knew it. Voters were stupid to buy into him tying Rob to Trump when Trump has little to nothing to do with county government. Oh well this is what you get when you have an electorate that’s not paying attention and will blindly do whatever their leaders want. We deserve to have our taxes raised so that Westchester is even more unaffordable or is Latimer going to make a program for us?

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