FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 2, 2008

CONTACT: Sebastian D’Elia, 908-527-4419
Tina Casey, 908-527-4346

 

FITCH CITES “STRENGTH OF COUNTY’S BROAD AND DIVERSE ECONOMY”
AND “CONSERVATIVE BUDGETING” IN GIVING UNION COUNTY THE HIGHEST ATTAINABLE FINANCIAL RATING
Bonds rated AAA by Fitch; AA1 by Moody’s

 

ELIZABETH, NJ---Two of Wall Street’s largest financial ratings agencies have given the County of Union outstanding bonding reviews, citing the County’s prudent fiscal practices and diversified economy as a whole.

Fitch Ratings rated assigned Union County’s bond ratings as AAA, the highest attainable. Moody’s Investor’s Service rated Union County as AA1, which is the second highest attainable. Both ratings mean Union County’s ability to meet its financial commitment to the issuance of bonds is extremely strong.

According to a release issued by Fitch, the AAA rating “reflects the strength of the county's broad and diverse economy, strong tax base growth in recent years, low to moderate debt levels, rapid amortization of outstanding debt and manageable capital needs.”

The release states further that “the county's strong financial management is largely reflected in its ability to maintain adequate fund balance. Conservative budgeting and willingness to raise recurring revenues should continue to produce adequate reserve levels despite two years of modest revenue shortfalls resulting in draws on the current fund balance.”

Freeholder Alexander Mirabella, who presided over the Fiscal Committee this year, noted the rating is a reflection of Union County’s well-planned fiscal measures and proper stewardship.

“We are keeping Union County’s finances and budgeting in order,” Mirabella said. “These ratings become especially important when the County must raise funds for critical items such as transportation infrastructure, public works projects, and development. Now more than ever through this period of great economic uncertainty, it is comforting to know that Union County’s finances are in sound condition.”

Fitch notes, “the county’s broad and diverse economic base features major transportation interstates and a close proximity to New York City, contributing to the presence of its top corporate employers in pharmaceuticals, health care, shipping and communications. Population growth in the county was strong over the 1990s reaching 522,541 in 2000 but has since stabilized.”

The release states “the county benefited from significant property value growth over the past few years, following slow growth through the early and mid 1990s. … Union County’s debt profile continues to be a credit strength. Overall debt, including debt of the municipalities, is a moderate $1,562 per capita and remains low at 1.07% of equalized valuation.”

Union County is currently seeking to save at least $2 million through the refinancing of
$63.2 million of existing bonds from 1997, 1998, and 2002 over a 3-4 year period, according
to Finance Director Lawrence Caroselli. Should market conditions permit at least a 3 percent present value savings, the County will move forward with refinancing, Caroselli added.