TOMS RIVER – A stable financial outlook and a reaffirmation of the highest credit rating possible is helping Ocean County save almost $5 million.
“With our bond rating reaffirmed at AAA, and because of conservative financial planning by this Board of Freeholders we will save about $5 million on the recent refunding of bonds totaling about $77.4 million,” said Freeholder Director John C. Bartlett Jr., who serves as liaison to the county’s Finance Department. “The ongoing efforts of this Board of Freeholders to budget conservatively while providing the funds for our core services has resulted in us maintaining this credit rating resulting in this savings.”
Ocean County first received a AAA bond rating in 2010 with the rating agencies increasing it to a AAA with a stable outlook last year.
“That’s the best rating you can get,” Bartlett said. “This is our financial report card. We have a solid financial plan in this County, we follow it and this bond rating validates it.”
Ocean County recently refunded or refinanced $77,460,000 in bonds in order to reduce the interest rate and payment by the County.
“By selling these bonds on the market floor, we saw a percentage of savings of 5.1 percent on interest costs,” Bartlett said. “That yields a $4.7 million savings.”
Bartlett noted that refunding bonds is similar to an individual refinancing a mortgage.
“You refinance at a lower rate to save money,” Bartlett said. “That is what we do at the County but it’s on money we have borrowed for large, capital projects.”
Included in the $77.4 million was funding for upgrades to the county radio communications system, construction of the Ocean County Vocational Technical Schools Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science, reconstruction of Brick Boulevard, the new terminal at the Ocean County Airport, Jakes Branch County Park, Beachwood and a host of engineering projects throughout the County.
“These bonds were issued in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008,” Bartlett said. “The refunding does not extend the life of the bonds.
“These projects are the bricks and mortar projects, they will be used for a very long time,” Bartlett said.
Bond rating houses Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings have both given Ocean County a AAA bond rating. Bond ratings range from Baa, the lowest, to AAA, the highest possible.
In 2014 Ocean County’s bond rating reached the highest rating possible – AAA stable outlook – with the revision from a negative outlook in 2013 by Moody’s Investor Services.