County gets high marks from 3 New York bond rating firms

October 25, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

Carroll County government has retained favorable ratings from two New York bond houses and received a high mark from a third that was rating the county for the first time.

The ratings mean that the county's bonds are of high quality and carry relatively low interest rates. The county sells bonds to finance new school and road construction and other capital projects.

County officials are scheduled to open bids this morning from companies that want to sell Carroll's general-obligation bonds. The company offering the lowest interest rate probably will be chosen.

The county plans to sell $24.45 million in bonds this year, Comptroller Eugene C. Curfman said yesterday, of which $7.1 million will be used to pay for renovations of the emergency room and one wing at Carroll County General Hospital.

The hospital project was the reason county officials brought in a third bond house this year. Fitch Investors Service Inc. is familiar with rating bonds for hospital projects.

The company gave Carroll an AA rating, its second-highest mark. The ranking means the company believes the county's ability to repay the loan and interest is "very strong," according to a company rating sheet.

The other two bond houses gave Carroll the same ratings as last year.

Moody's Investor Service Inc. gave Carroll County an Aa rating, the bond house's second-highest mark.

Standard & Poor's gave the county an AA-, its second-highest rating qualified with a minus sign.

Mr. Curfman said he is pleased with the three ratings but had hoped Standard & Poor's would raise its mark. The company said Carroll has "a positive outlook" financially and might be in line for a higher rating in a year or two, he said.

The bond house is interested in seeing how the county enterprise funds for water and sewer perform in the next two years, he said. The funds are intended to make those operations self-supporting.

A change in the bond rating can save thousands of dollars on interest payments, Mr. Curfman said.

Representatives from the three bond houses visited the county late last month to learn more about Carroll's financial health and to see its mix of commercial, industrial and residential land uses. They met with the commissioners and financial officials and toured the county.

Last year, the county sold $52 million in bonds, $34 million of which were bonds refinanced at a lower interest rate.

Six companies submitted bids to sell the bonds last year.

The county accepted a bid from Goldman, Sachs & Co. of New York at an interest rate of 4.94 percent.

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