The fund and asset management assessment group, Fitch Ratings, has upgraded San Luis Obispo County’s bond rating to AA+, up from its previous rating of AA.
San Luis Obispo is only one of three counties in the state to receive as high an overall credit rating from Fitch, said Dan Buckshi, county administrative officer. The others are San Diego and Marin.
The rating is based on the county’s credit worthiness in areas such as its pension obligation bonds and lease revenue funding bonds. The Fitch report cites several reasons for its increase in the county’s rating including its strong financial performance through the recession, a stable local economy, a very low debt profile and a stable tax base.
“The upgrade reflects the county’s consistently solid financial position which has improved through the economic downturn, benefiting from conservative budgeting and financial planning,” the Fitch report stated. “The county has posted five consecutive years of surpluses resulting in significant reserve levels.
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The AA+ rating is only a small step below the highest rating given by Fitch of AAA.
County officials say the Fitch report is significant because it is an analysis done by an independent third party of the county’s overall financial health. The higher rating means that the county would pay lower interest rates if it had to borrow money to pay for a large public infrastructure project, thereby decreasing the burden on taxpayers.
“An upgrade at the end of an economic downturn is quite an accomplishment,” said Jim Erb, county Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector. It is a reflection of our conservative fiscal policies and the strong working relationship between the Board of Supervisors, the county administrative officer, my office and all county employees.”