Fitch Ratings gives county bond ‘AA+’ rating
SARASOTA COUNTY – Fitch Ratings upgraded Sarasota County’s utility system revenue bond rating this month to “AA+” from “AA” based on an improving local economy.
The rating upgrade is accompanied by a “stable outlook” by Fitch Ratings, a global leader in credit ratings and research. It is an upgrade from its previous “AA” rating, with “positive outlook.”
“The county is pleased with this upgrade from Fitch Ratings, which acknowledges the key strengths of the county’s Utility System operation. These strengths include a sustained trend of strong financial metrics, positive financial results, and a strong debt coverage ratio, among other factors,” said Steve Botelho, acting assistant county administrator and chief financial management officer. “In addition, Fitch recognizes the improvement in the local economy, including a reduced unemployment rate and an improving real estate market.”
Sarasota County has about $189.8 million in outstanding utility system revenue bonds. They are secured by a senior lien on the net revenues and legally available impact fees that come from operating the county’s water and sewer system. The county serves a customer base of roughly 82,000 water and 74,800 wastewater accounts.
Fitch Ratings notes that, after the economic challenges of the recent recession and its aftermath, “the county’s economy is experiencing a sustained recovery, with increases in building permit activity, a more substantial rise in sales tax collections, an uptick in housing prices and a decline in foreclosure activity.”
Fitch’s report goes on to mention solid financials, a sustainably expanding customer base, affordable customer charges, manageable debt and a solid operating profile as the basis for its rating. Additional information is available at www.fitchratings.com.