One of the political footballs tossed around last year during the debate over the bond election that also is getting kicked around this election season is the state of the county’s finances.
A small assortment of Chicken Littles in our community has tried to get people to believe the county is in dire financial circumstances. Nothing could be further from the truth. Pima County is financially strong and getting stronger.
Two of the nation’s largest credit rating agencies, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s, have recently issued their ratings for all types of county debt and for more than 10 years now the county has maintained AA ratings, which are the highest ratings that can generally be achieved by local governments. Only the United States government and a handful of giant multinational corporations have higher, AAA ratings.
In their ratings reports, the two firms spoke highly of county fiscal management and our overall management in general. Here are some of the comments from the ratings reports release in May and from February:
“We view the county’s management as strong…” (S&P, GO Bonds)
“Pima County’s budgetary performance is strong.” (S&P, GO Bonds)
“Extremely strong liquidity position…” (S&P, Sewer revenue bonds)
“Pima County’s long-term liability burden is low…” (Fitch, GO bonds)
The Board of Supervisors and county administration have worked diligently over the years to maintain the county’s strong fiscal footing. That’s why when the horrible Great Recession ravaged our community, the county weathered the storm without drastic reductions in services or tax increases.
We maintained our strong credit ratings through the recession and resulting economic malaise and managed to hold on to our financial reserves, which the ratings agencies give significant value to – they want to know that if disaster hits, we have the reserves to continue to meet our obligations.
Though we have asked voters to invest in their community over the years through bond elections, we have used aggressive repayment schedules to pay off these debts within 15 years of their issuance, keeping interest costs low and saving taxpayers many millions of dollars. The results of these investments are all around you – bigger, less congested roads, state-of-the-art wastewater management, exceptional public healthcare, excellent parks, exquisite open spaces and much, much more.
What these strong credit ratings mean for you is that the county is able to borrow money at discounted interest rates, saving taxpayers even more millions of dollars. What the strong fiscal management means for you is that from day to day and from year to year, your money is used in service to you without putting you or your community at financial risk.
Balancing spending and revenue are difficult decisions and they are rightly debated in the political arena. How we spend taxpayer money and why are the most important decisions we make as a community.
As the summer progresses and leads into fall and the political rhetoric heats up, it’s important that our residents know the reality of the county’s financial health.
The sky is not falling. Your county is fiscally and financially sound and has been for many years and will be for the foreseeable future.
And you don’t have to take my word for it – you can read the Fitch and Standard and Poor’s reports: Pima County 2016 Credit Rating Reports.