Richland County’s financial management practices earned high marks from one of the nation’s leading credit rating agencies, enabling the county to borrow money for projects at a reduced cost to taxpayers.
Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services (S&P) raised its long-term rating on Richland County’s long-term general obligation debt to AAA, making it one of only three counties in the state to achieve this status from the agency.
The AAA rating, an indication S&P believes the county has an "extremely strong" ability to meet its financial obligations, can result in lower borrowing costs for Richland County, which in turn is good news for taxpayers.
“Achieving a AAA credit rating has been the goal of Richland County for some time,” County Administrator Tony McDonald said. “We are very pleased that our efforts have been recognized and rewarded.”
The upgrade to the AAA credit rating from AA+ puts the county within the highest ratings category allowing it to join Greenville County and Charleston County. This rating gives the county a higher credit rating from S&P than the state of South Carolina and the United States.
The rating upgrade reflects the following positive factors: strong economy and budgetary performance; and very strong budget flexibility, reserves, liquidity and management.
Richland County was recognized for its financial management practices including:
- Conservative and accurate budgeting practices that incorporate historical trend analysis;
- Regular financial reporting to County Council on budgeted numbers compared to actual results and investment holdings;
- Formal long-term financial planning that it performs annually as part of the budget process;
- Formal debt management policies, limiting debt service to 6 percent of assessed value and carrying charges to 25 percent of operating revenue;
- Comprehensive 10-year capital improvement plan that it updates annually and includes funding sources; and
- Formal reserve policy that mandates the maintenance of unreserved general fund balance at 20 percent of expenditures.
“Having a strong financial and budgetary foundation has been very important to County Council," said Richland County Council Chairman Kelvin Washington. "We have successfully balanced the county’s obligation to provide first rate services with our need to be fiscally conservative.”