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HC bond rating improves

WINTON – If bond ratings were similar to high academic standards at a local school, Hertford County would find itself on the Principal’s List.

At Monday’s meeting, the Hertford County Board of Commissioners learned that the county’s bond rating improved from a “BBB+” to an “A.”

County Manager Loria Williams shared the good news with the commissioners, saying that the rating was supplied by Standard & Poor’s, the world’s foremost provider of credit ratings, indices, investment research and data.

“There were only four counties in North Carolina that had their ratings increased and we were one of them,” Williams said. “We’re very proud of this, hopefully we’ll be able to maintain this rating.”

While Hertford County is not currently in the market seeking to sell bonds for a major project, the high rating makes the county extremely attractive when such a project arises.

“The higher the rating, the better lenders feel about your financial stability,” said Chuck Revelle who serves as legal counsel to the Hertford County Board of Commissioners.

Revelle added that it was very rare to see a rating improve during tough economic times such as what the nation is currently experiencing.

“It should be noted that Standard & Poor’s has more stringent guidelines in rating businesses and government entities such as ourselves after what happened a few years ago with major corporations suffering financial collapse,” Revelle said. “Even with those tougher guidelines, Hertford County was still able to improve its rating.”

Marilyn Cruz of Standard & Poor’s made these comments in her review of Hertford County’s financial stability.

“The local employment base is centered in the manufacturing sector with no major closures or downsizing of its major employers. However, unemployment has risen to 10 percent since March 2009, slightly below the state’s 10.8 percent for the same period.”

Cruz’s evaluation continued, “In our view, the county has maintained a good financial position with very strong reserves. Fiscal (year) 2008 closed with a $363,000 surplus after transfers, increasing the fund balance to $7.8 million, or 35.3 percent of operating expenditures.”

The news prompted a response from Commission Vice-Chairman Johnnie Ray Farmer…“It’s very apparent that our money management practices are very sound as evident by this improved bond rating.”

In other business conducted by the board at their Monday meeting:

** Set a 9 a.m. public hearing on Monday, July 6 for the adoption of the county’s Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance.

** Appointed Jeri Pierce of Winton to a seat on the Roanoke-Chowan Community College Board of Trustees. Pierce replaces Sue Lassiter of Ahoskie whose current four-year term expires on June 30. The commissioners other three appointees to the RCCC Trustees (with term expirations listed in parenthesis) are Ronald Gatling of Ahoskie (2010), Wendy-Ruffin Barnes of Ahoskie (2011) and Lillie Owens-White of Murfreesboro (2012).