Just in time for the decisive weeks in which Wicomico County decides how it will pay for its capital spending projects, two of major credit rating agencies have affirmed the county’s strong credit ratings.
Moody’s Investor Services of New York bestowed its “Aa2” rating on Wicomico, while Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings reaffirmed its “AA+/Stable” rating.
Moody’s said in its review: “The Aa2 rating is based on the county’s strong financial position supported by recent and projected surplus operations and management’s adherence to formalized fiscal policies. The rating also incorporates the county’s large tax base with average resident wealth and income indices, and manageable debt and pension liabilities.”
Said Standard & Poor’s: “The rating reflects our opinion of the following factors for the county: the county’s position as the regional hub for the Delmarva Peninsula, with a stable and growing, yet still rural economy, primarily anchored in agribusiness; historically strong financial performance couple with the maintenance of very strong reserves, well-above formal fiscal policies; and strong financial policies and practices under our Financial Management Assessment methodology.”
Wicomico’s bond sale will take place in the Wall Street markets on Tuesday, Dec. 7, with closing on the transactions scheduled for Dec. 21.
As usual, the county has several projects on its capital list, with a virtually new Mardela Middle and High School and Public Safety Building for the Sheriff’s Office being the most notable.
Other capital projects include new landfill cell construction, a payment toward Wor-Wic Community College’s Applied Technology Building, Wicomico Civic Center renovations and county roads repairs.
On Nov. 17 in a public hearing at the Civic Center, Acting County Executive John Psota and Finance Director Pam Oland updated the status of each project and outlined where the funding falls within the county’s charter-enforced borrowing guidelines.
Speaking at the hearing was schools Superintendent Donna Hanlin, who asked that $10.1 million be funded this coming year for an early phase of the Mardela school project, as well as roofing repairs at both Wicomico and Parkside high schools.
Over five years, the school board hopes to receive $21.2 million in county capital money.
A $1.033 million allotment would go toward Wor-Wic Community College’s new Applied Technology Building.
The Civic Center will also need $6.2 million in the coming year for external improvements, but Oland said much of that money would eventually come from state grants and other sources.
Psota will formally present the Capital Improvement Plan to the County Council later this month. Under the traditional budgeting schedule, the council would have until late February to make a final determination.