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Home News-Telegram News County’s credit rating is back on top with $3M fund balance

County’s credit rating is back on top with $3M fund balance

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By KERRY CRAIG

    Hopkins County's credit rating is back on top due to efforts by the county commissioners court.
    The county's credit ratings took a nosedive in November 2010, when Moody's Investor Service and Standard and Poor dropped the rating from A1 to A2 due to a “deteriorating financial position.”
    At the time, Southwest Securities Group advisor Dan Almon said attrition, or decline, of the county's reserve fund balance was tied directly to the economy. Also playing a significant part in the problem was the lack of a plan to reestablish a reserve fund.
    Earlier this month, as the county was preparing to sell bonds to fund the construction of a new county jail, officials learned that the failing credit rating had turned around, enabling the county to get a better interest rate on the borrowed money.
    Monday, County Judge Chris Brown said the annual audit, which was completed last week, indicated the county was back in good condition financially.
    “With the completion of selling the bonds and the completion of the audit right after that, we got a couple of hits of good news,” Brown said. “One of the first assurances that our labor had not been in vain was the upgrade by Standard and Poor of our credit rating.
    “The best news is, we did hit our target and actually exceeded our target of a $3 million fund balance by a couple of hundred thousand dollars,” Brown continued. “That allows us to really go forward with making plans rather than just trying to stay on our heels and continue to react.”
    With the establishment of the fund balance, Brown said the county is now in a position to implement a capital outlay plan and keep a strong financial rating in place.    
    As the county entered into the new bond process for the county jail, commissioners found a financial advisor to help formalize what the county has been working toward and to actually have a plan to follow.
    “Now we can actually plan to move forward and target the areas we really need to improve,” he said. “This isn't anything that one person was able to do,” he said. “It's that we all banded together and made happen because we knew that's where it needed to be.”
    This will enable the county to plan for capital expenditures like air conditioning, roofs and major purchases like fire trucks and equipment.
    “We want a pay-as-you-go plan, not a try to finance and catch up plan,” he said. “That's what we've been able to do, get over the hump so now we can establish that pay-as-you-go plan and that's a big thing that financial advisor is going to be able to help us do.”
    With work beginning on the jail, Brown said architects will also make a contribution.
    “The architects are going to help us develop that maintenance plan for the jail so we've already got it planned for before anything ever goes wrong,” he said. “We stay ahead of it, stay ahead of the curve and that gives us plenty of time to react should we have another little downturn or something happen. We will have a lot of contingency plans in place and know exactly what to do.”

 

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