ROCKLAND COUNTY, N.Y. -- For the first time in a decade Rockland County bonds have been ranked in the "A" category, said Rockland County Executive Ed Day on Monday.
The “A-“ rating by Fitch is the county's fifth consecutive bond upgrade since 2014 when Rockland's bonds were rated just above junk and the county had a $138 million deficit.
"This is a development that matters to every person who pays taxes in Rockland County," Day said. "It means that we can borrow money as we do regularly to fund capital projects at a lower cost."
For a $30 million new issue 20-year-bond the difference between an “A” rating and a “B” rating is between $350,000 and $500,000, according to Rockland Commissioner of Finance Stephen DeGroat.
Rockland County has saved between $3 to $5 million in debt service since 2014.
"That is equivalent to a three to five percent property tax increase that did not happen due to our fiscal responsibility," Day said.
Legislature Chairman Toney L. Earl says the new rating is further evidence that the difficult decisions made by the legislature have continued to help turn things around when it comes to our finances.
“But many issues remain, including paying down the rest of the deficit and reducing our fiscal stress score so that we are no longer considered strained,” Earl said.
A steadily improving economy, both regionally and nationally, has contributed to the improvements of Rockland’s overall fiscal condition.Rockland earned $11 million in premiums from its $96 million deficit reduction bond sale and $20 million in total premiums on all bond sales since 2014.
"This is how we are driving the deficit down without raising your property taxes," Day said.
Day noted that the Fitch analysts rated Rockland's bonds as “A-” with a stable outlook.
Sale of the county-owned Sain building for $4.51 million would allow the county to reduce its remaining $10 million deficit by 40 percent, he said.
"Just about everyone understands that the sale of the deteriorating Sain Building is crucial to the county's future," Day said. "Everyone but a certain group of five legislators. We know who they are and the voters of Rockland County know who they are. We remain hopeful that they will put their petty political games aside and do the right thing for the future of Rockland County."
Earl also acknowledged the work of the Administration in trying to better the county’s finances.
Among the issues still to be addressed: Paying down the remaining deficit, determining the future uses of vacant government office space in New City and Pomona, and avoiding breaking the tax cap.
“The Legislature has spent countless hours developing detailed responses to the fiscal crises we have faced in recent years,” Earl said. “It is important that we have detailed information about every issue we grapple with and that we try to avoid one-shot answers. We were forced to do that in the past and no one was happy about it. We are not pressured to do so now, thanks to the decisions we made regarding the budget.”