Morris County Holds AAA Financial Rating for 47th Consecutive Year
Moody’s Investors Service again issued its top, AAA rating of Morris County’s financial stability in a review of $5.2 million in county guaranteed bonds offered for facility improvements at the County College of Morris.
“The county has built a deep bench of civil servants and outside professionals to implement its policy objectives. This, plus a combination of a strong statewide institutional framework and highly conservative budgeting, has allowed the county not only to strengthen its finances, but to do so while providing various forms of assistance to its local government,” Moody’s wrote in its latest analysis.
The AAA rating benefits everyone in Morris County.
“The importance of this AAA rating is that taxpayers
– from working people maintaining a single-family home to business owners facing a volatile economy – are spared hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in taxes when Morris County or a local town needs to borrow money under the county umbrella to finance important projects, like building a school or improving key public facilities. It allows us to take advantage of the lowest possible financing rates possible, much like a homeowner with an excellent personal credit rating,” said Tayfun Selen, Director of the Morris County Board of County Commissioners.
County College of Morris
The capital improvements at CCM, outlined earlier this year in the Morris County 2022 Capital Budget, range from building modifications and updating heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems, to improvements to accessibility and dealing with stormwater.
Morris County took advantage of historically low-interest rates.
“To save taxpayer dollars, and as head of the budget committee, I recommended and the board agreed to expedite a $26 million upgrade and funding for the 9-1-1 Communications Center in 2020 to take advantage of historically low-interest rates that year,” said Deputy Director John Krickus. “Morris County also refinanced multiple county and local projects in the fall of 2020 to save taxpayers an added $2.6 million over the life of those bonds. By moving early on those important projects, Morris County avoided the current, higher rates.”
Moody’s Findings on Morris County’s Financial Stability
- “Substantial tax base and diverse economy”
- “Strong wealth and resident income”
- “Additional financial flexibility provided by reserves outside the Current Fund”
- “Conservative financial management practices”
Moody’s: “The stable outlook reflects our expectation that the county's financial position will remain strong over the near term and that the county will continue to benefit from its substantial and diverse tax base and above-average resident wealth and income.”
Highlights from the latest Moody’s Report
“The pandemic has not had a major impact on the local economy. After spiking sharply in the early stages of the pandemic, the unemployment rate has recovered. As of March 2022, the county's unemployment rate was 3.2%, lower than the 4.1% state and 3.8% national levels. The tax base includes roughly 80% residential and 18% commercial/industrial values. There is, of course, a very substantial amount of public park land and numerous non-profit entities which are not included on the tax rolls.”
“The county also has a significant retail and corporate presence, including many Fortune 500 companies. The largest taxpayers include major pharmaceutical, retail, and financial firms and there is no material concentration in the tax base.”
Pandemic Planning Key to Morris County Maintaining AAA Rating
In a report issued January 2021, Moody’s cited Morris County’s financial planning for potential COVID-19 pandemic impacts, as well as its pandemic responses, as reasons the agency maintained the county’s AAA rating last year, despite the negative impact the virus had throughout New Jersey.
“Although the pandemic has had a negative impact throughout the state, Morris County's credit quality has not been impacted. The county created a COVID-19 Strategic Planning (Advisory) Committee which meets regularly and has implemented a variety of measures to reduce the impact,” Moody’s noted.
In a February 2021 publication on the economic benefits of addressing the pandemic through public, private, and nonprofit partnerships, Moody’s also cited Morris County’s work with Atlantic Health System and the State of New Jersey in operating the Morris County Regional COVID-19 Vaccination Center in Rockaway Township.
“Fewer pandemic cases boost the local and state economy, with the added benefit of improving finances for health care facilities,” Moody’s concluded.