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Westchester’s Fiscal Outlook on the Upswing: Ratings Agencies
Westchester County’s financial picture received a strong boost last week as the three ratings agencies all deemed the county to have a positive outlook.
County Executive George Latimer said Monday that Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor each gave Westchester their second highest rating after the agencies completed an extensive review of the county’s finances within the past two weeks. The evaluation includes examination of factors such as fund balance, staffing and overall fiscal policy.
Fitch has upgraded the county to an AA+ rating, its second highest rating, which bumps up the county’s overall outlook from stable to positive, he said.
Meanwhile, both Moody’s and Standard & Poor have maintained their ratings at AA1 and AA+, respectively, both the second highest as well.
Latimer pointed out that when he took office nearly five years ago, the county had a negative fiscal outlook, which has been turned around.
“We’ve made some progress along these lines,” Latimer said. “Fitch has recognized that with an upgrade to a positive outlook.”
The improving ratings and outlook allow the county to borrow money, typically done for larger expenditures, at a lower interest rate, helping to save Westchester and its residents money.
Latimer said the improved outlooks helps place the county in a stronger financial position and he pledged to make sure that there will be no borrowing for most expenses.
“This will make it less expensive to do some of the work we need to do in capital projects,” he said of the ratings. “We’ll pay less interest on the money that we borrow because we have a higher bond rating, and also the higher the bond rating, the more likely the offerings we’re making will be picked up out of the marketplace.”
In its eight-page report, Standard & Poor gave the county high marks for managing its finances conservatively while balancing the budget without the use of fund balance or one-time revenues. Furthermore, the county was able to increase fund balance while able to decrease the property tax levy for the fourth consecutive years in the proposed 2023 budget.
“Overall, we believe the county’s budget adequately reflects potential budgetary pressures from lower growth and higher inflation and we expect Westchester will maintain its very strong reserves,” the report stated. “In fiscal 2022, the county did not have to borrow for cash flow purposes, given its very strong liquidity cushion.”
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/