Legislature receives good forecast on credit ratings and bond sales

BY MICHAEL RICONDA

NEW CITY – County Finance Commissioner Stephen DeGroat presented encouraging news to the legislature last Tuesday, March 11, relating that the credit outlook and sale of the county’s $96 million in deficit financing bonds looked promising enough to set the county on a more even fiscal footing.

According to DeGroat, county finances appear to be stable enough to boost confidence among investors. Consequently, Rockland’s bonds have been “very successful” on the market and their ratings have remained stable.

“We keep improving and we had a lot of buyers,” DeGroat said.

The county’s Mooody’s rating is stable at BAA3 and its Standard & Poor rating is stable BBB-. DeGroat expressed optimism about progress and success with the mental health services transfer to Nyack Hospital, sale of Summit Park and successful sale of deficit financing bonds, which are likely to appear attractive to investors and rating authorities.

“My personal opinion is that we’re looking at a possible upgrade,” DeGroat stated.

The bonds received attention from 35 buyers, including major firms such as Goldman-Sachs, Fidelity, Putnam and others. Initially, the bond’s coupons were priced at a 3.5 to 5 percent interest rate, but oversubscription and high bids forced the interest rate down to 2.7 percent for $11.7 million in premium bonds.

A net $107 million will be accessible to the county on Thursday when the bond sales are expected to close. The sales have been successful enough that borrowing for revenue anticipation notes (RAN) is expected to be unnecessary.

The next credit rating will likely be given at around the time of the county’s capital borrowing in July or August.