By RICK HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON — A financial rating service has affirmed Jefferson County’s A-plus rating for this year, and the rating is expected to be reaffirmed for at least the next two years due to the county’s management of its budget.
“Our capacity to borrow is based on our financial stability,” said County Chairman Robert White. “These rating houses analyze everything about you and render an opinion. For us to remain an A-plus is a big deal, especially this year based on the events that took place.”
In the report, Standard & Poor’s Rating Service specifically noted the county board took the necessary measures during the current budget year after the loss of ICE related income to maintain a balanced budget. Further, the county has shown strong budgetary flexibility and have kept available reserves above 15 percent.
“This took a lot of hard work from a lot of people,” White said. “It wasn’t just myself and the County Board, but administrative assistant Suzy Tate, officeholders and even employees. A lot of people contributed to our ability to maintain this A-plus rating. It took the effort of everyone involved.”
The report does not contemplate the county’s recently balanced budget passed by the Fiscal Committee that will be submitted for board approval during a special meeting scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. The special meeting is to conform to the 30-day public inspection requirement to allow for passage at the board’s regular meeting in November. The county’s fiscal year begins on Dec. 1.
“The goal all along was to maintain a balanced budget,” White said. “To be recognized for the efforts made is a pleasant surprise.”
According S&P, the overall budgetary performance is “strong due to decision making at the time of lost ICE related revenue. While the board made tough decisions when cutting the budget, their goal to be financially solvent is recognized in this report.”
Due to drastic budget cuts made in December 2012 after the loss of ICE prisoners, several employees lost their employment in Jefferson County. Eighteen positions were either cut or reduced in hours, unrelated to the ICE operations. With the proposed 2013-2014 budget, the board seeks to restore eight positions to full time status and one to part time. Of the 18 non-ICE related positions, three continue to be filled due to subsidizing of automation funds available to officeholders.
“This is very positive news,” White concluded. “It’s important the people of Jefferson County know that despite all the financial troubles we hear about in state and federal government, the people are aware their county government is committed to living within our means.”