ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today announced the County received the highest possible credit rating, AAA, from all three bond rating agencies - Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investor Services and Standard & Poor’s. Among more than 3,100 counties in the nation, Howard is one of 49 counties to receive a AAA rating from all three agencies. The rating affirms Howard County’s ability to pay its debts and gives taxpayers the lowest possible interest when repaying bonds sold by the county.
As we look towards recovery from the pandemic, this rating confirms Howard County’s fiscal responsibility. Ultimately, a triple A bond rating saves our residents money, and I especially appreciate the trust and investment of our taxpayers. I want to thank and acknowledge our entire finance and budget teams for their guidance throughout this process. Thank you also our EDA and Chambers of Commerce who work to keep our business community growing and vibrant. As we move forward with our annual budget process, our County’s fiscal practices remain healthy, flexible, and sound.
"Howard County continues to be a leader in fiscal responsibility," said Council Chair Dr. Opel Jones. "Despite the uncertainty amid the pandemic, receiving a AAA bond rating means we have a strong financial footing. Congratulations to County Executive Dr. Calvin Ball and his team, for the highest rating for the betterment of our residents and our local economy."
The rating agencies use four categories of criteria: Economy/Tax base, Finances, Management, and Debt/Pensions. Each agency issued a report that highlights Howard County’s strengths:
Standard & Poor’s noted, “The county is a desirable affluent community with a strong economy, supported by a well-educated population, wealthy property tax base, and high household incomes, with access to the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). In our opinion, these factors, along with stable financial operations and very strong management, including comprehensive policies and practices that have allowed them to weather several economic downturns, underpin the 'AAA' rating. Despite the recent challenges brought on by the pandemic, the county continues to experience economic growth and maintains a strong financial position and reserves as they continue to monitor and adjust for potential anticipated multiyear revenue loss going forward.”
Moody’s reported, “The stable outlook reflects our expectation that the county’s improved financial position will remain solid given a recent influx of federal and state funds, strong growth in major operating revenues, and management’s adherence to formal fiscal policies. The outlook also reflects the county’s modestly growing tax base that benefits from its proximity to the District of Columbia (Aaa stable) and the institutional presence of Fort Meade, which employs approximately 15,000 Howard County residents.”
Fitch cited, “strong economic activity and continued investment in the county” and said “the county's financial profile…reflects strong revenue growth prospects from a growing property tax base. Fitch expects the county's long-term liability burden to remain low.”
“Howard County continues to be exemplary,” said Howard County Director of Finance Rafiu Ighile. “This reaffirmation of our triple A ratings from all three major rating agencies is a huge accomplishment and commendable. This is great testament to the outstanding leadership in the County! A warm thank you to our dedicated Finance and Budget teams for keeping the County fiscally responsible and sound. We will continue to strive for excellence to maintain our standard. Again, thank you to the entire Finance team for their dedication and outstanding work.
We’re very pleased that once again, Howard County receives a AAA credit rating, the highest rating received by less than 2% of all counties nationwide. We will continue our prudent fiscal planning and strong fiscal discipline that has helped the County weather through economic and pandemic challenges and remain financially strong and sustainable. A vibrant economy, strong leadership, sound fiscal and financial management and continued efforts to develop the County’s economic base will remain key factors to maintaining the County’s high credit rating and strong financial position in the future.
“The recent announcement is great news and demonstrates that even in the midst of financial uncertainty brought about by the Covid pandemic, the County continues to adhere to sound fiscal practices,” said Howard County Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Leonardo McClarty.
“While this past year has been challenging for some of our industry sectors, the commercial base has grown, and businesses have added jobs,” said Howard County Economic Development Authority CEO Larry Twele. “We are pleased to see that the rating agencies recognize Howard County’s strong economic diversity and resiliency. These fundamentals demonstrate the county is strong now and positioned for more growth in the future.”
“Considering the challenging times relating to the pandemic and economic uncertainty, being recognized with the AAA bond rating from all three bond rating agencies shows the strength of Howard County’s financial position, balanced financial management and long-term fiscal planning,” said Central Maryland Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Kristi Simon.