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Manatee ranks among fiscally strongest local governments in Florida | Business

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Manatee ranks among fiscally strongest local governments in Florida
Business, News, Politics
Manatee ranks among fiscally strongest local governments in Florida

Bradenton, Florida -- Independent credit ratings rank Manatee County’s financial standing among the top five percent of local governments out of nearly 500 cities and counties around Florida.

In a debt and credit update to Manatee County Commissioners today, an MBS Capital Markets analyst said Manatee has borrowed wisely over the years and its prompt, regular payment on large public projects has helped save millions of taxpayer dollars over time. Only four Florida county governments out of 66 others have a stronger rating than Manatee, said MBS managing partner Ed Bulleit.

“The Board of County Commission has consistently made good decisions, and county staff has managed local debt very well,” Bulleit said. “One reason you have such strong debt is that you’ve had a dramatic decrease in upcoming outstanding debt. Your longterm borrowings have been much shorter than asset life.”

Moody’s has assigned Manatee’s Utility Bonds a prestigious Aa2 rating, a grade that “demonstrates very strong creditworthiness relative to other U.S. municipal or tax-exempt issuers or issues.” Only Moody’s Aaa rating is stronger on a rating scale of nine levels.

Similarly, Fitch has assigned Manatee’s utility bonds an AA+, second only to AAA on a scale of 11 ranks. The AA+ rating reflects the “expectation of very low default risk” and “indicates strong capacity for payment of financial commitments.”

The County’s ratings for general obligation debt have been maintained at AAA and Aa1 by Fitch Ratings and Moody’s, respectively. Port Manatee bonds were upgraded to AA+ by Fitch Ratings in 2012.

County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said after the report that during the Great Recession Manatee has improved its credit ratings thanks to the Commission’s longstanding commitment to only borrow when necessary and thanks to the prudent investment guidance of Clerk of Courts Chips Shore.  

“The recent downturn had a damaging impact on many local governments, as well as the Federal government which saw its credit ratings dip in recent years,” Hunzeker said. “But our consistently conservative approach to borrowing and budgeting has proven to be a wise policy considering these stellar ratings.”

Annual debt service payments for principal and interest due for next year are more than $2.1 million lower than annual debt service payments made four years ago. The refinancing of four debt issues have occurred since 2010, leading to a taxpayer savings of more than $10 million since then.  

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