published Friday, February 12th, 2010

County leaders hail AAA bond rating


by Matt Wilson
Audio clip

Hamilton County Commission meeting

The announcement Thursday that Hamilton County had received an AAA bond rating from Standard & Poor's Ratings Services had the County Commission crowing with delight.

"This kind of thing doesn't happen after a year's effort," Commissioner Richard Casavant said. "It takes year after year."

Dr. Casavant said the rating will save the county "a ton of money on debt."

Bond ratings, much like an individual's credit rating, measure how much return an investor expects to get on a bond and affect interest rates.

The AAA rating is the highest S&P gives and this is the first time the county has received the rating, County Mayor Claude Ramsey said.

"I'm very proud of that, and I hope you are, too," Mr. Ramsey said. "Now the tough part comes. You've got to keep it."

WHAT THE RATINGS MEAN

* AAA to AA: High credit quality

* A to BBB: Medium credit quality

* BB to C: Low credit quality (sometimes called "junk bonds")

* D: In default

(Note: Standard & Poor's ratings differ from other ratings from agencies such as Moody's.)

Source: Forbes

The S&P announcement of the AAA rating states that Hamilton County's debt obligations "should not place any substantial pressure on the operating budget." The rating applies to the county's 2009 general obligation bonds.

Commissioner John Allen Brooks noted that the AAA rating is very rare.

"To get an AAA rating during an economic downturn is even rarer," he said.

Also on Thursday, the commission discussed a list of projects for which the county will be requesting federal funds. Those include extending the Tennessee Riverwalk, building a connector road from state Highway 58 to Enterprise South industrial park and rail projects at Enterprise South.

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