“Howard County continues to be a leader in fiscal responsibility,” said board chairman Dr. Opel Jones. “Despite the uncertainty in the midst of the pandemic, receiving a AAA bond rating means we have a strong financial footing. Congratulations to County Executive Dr. Calvin Ball and his team on the highest rating for the improving our residents and our local economy.”
Rating agencies use four categories of criteria: Economy/Asset, Finances, Management and Debt/Pensions. Each agency released a report that highlights Howard County’s strengths:
Standard & Poor’s noted, “The county is a desirable affluent community with a strong economy, supported by a well-educated population, a rich property tax base, and high household incomes, with access to the Baltimore and Washington Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). In our view, these factors, along with stable financial operations and very strong management, including comprehensive policies and practices that have seen them through several economic downturns, underpin the “AAA” rating. Despite recent challenges posed by the pandemic, the county continues to experience economic growth and maintains a strong financial position and reserves while continuing to monitor and adapt to the potential loss of revenue expected over several years in the future. .
Moody’s said, “The stable outlook reflects our expectation that the county’s improved financial position will remain strong given a recent influx of federal and state funds, strong growth in major operating revenues and the buy-in of the direction to formal fiscal policies. The outlook also reflects modest growth in the county’s tax base which benefits from its proximity to the District of Columbia (Aaa stable) and the institutional presence of Fort Meade, which employs approximately 15,000 Howard County residents.
Fitch cited, “strong economic activity and continued investment in the county” and said that “the county’s financial profile…reflects strong prospects for revenue growth from a growing property tax base.” Fitch expects the county’s long-term liability burden to remain low.
“Howard County continues to be exemplary,” said Rafiu Ighile, Howard County Chief Financial Officer. “This reaffirmation of our triple-A ratings from all three major rating agencies is a huge and laudable achievement. It is a great testament to the county’s exceptional leadership! A heartfelt thank you to our dedicated finance and budget teams for maintaining accountability and the fiscal strength of the county. We will continue to strive for excellence to maintain our level. Once again, thank you to the entire finance team for their dedication and outstanding work.