Harford County has again received top credit ratings for its upcoming sale of $50 million in general obligation bonds on Jan. 23.
Projects to be funded by the sale include the new Havre de Grace High and Middle School building on which construction is scheduled to being this spring. Completion would be in 2020, according to school officials.
The county administration announced Wednesday that it has retained its Triple-A bond rating from all three of the nation’s major independent bond-rating agencies. The bonds will be sold in 30-year maturities.
“Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s, and Fitch have each reaffirmed their highest possible rating for Harford County, citing the county’s strong economy and well-managed county government,” the county said in a news release. “Triple-A bond ratings reduce the cost of borrowing to fund capital projects including road improvements, schools, libraries and recreational facilities.”
Harford County is among an estimated 3 percent of counties nationwide to earn the top rating from all three major rating agencies, the release states, quoting Fitch’s narrative: “The county proved its financial resilience and strong budget management through the most recent recession by making reductions in operating and capital spending.”
Standard & Poor’s Rating Services wrote, “The stable outlook reflects our view of Harford County's consistent financial performance, including during recessionary periods, and very strong economy that strong management supports.”
Moody’s Investors Service wrote, “The Aaa rating reflects the county's substantial tax base with a healthy demographic profile, satisfactory financial position supported by healthy and stable reserves ...”
“I am proud that all three rating agencies have affirmed our fiscally balanced approach to managing local government,” County Executive Barry Glassman said in a statement. “These top ratings demonstrate that Harford County is on the right path, and I would like to thank our county employees for this progress on behalf of our citizens and future generations.”
The latest bond sale will be conducted by electronic sealed bidding on the morning of the 23rd. The Harford County Council is scheduled to meet in special session that afternoon to ratify the sale to the lowest bidder.
The $50 million to be borrowed covers some 75 individual projects; however, almost $29.7 million is for just two projects, the completion of the new Youth’s Benefit Elementary School replacement building in Fallston ($7.8 million) and a new Havre de Grace High and Middle school building ($21.9 million).
On Dec. 4, the Harford County Board of Education awarded final design and construction contracts totaling $81.6 million for the Havre de Grace school project. The state will contribute approximately 25 percent of the cost, according to Harford County Public Schools officials.
The Youth’s Benefit project is largely complete. The final section of the new building, housing upper grades, was occupied in November. The total project cost is about $37.1 million, according to HCPS.
For large, expensive building projects, the county typically sells bonds in stages, since not all the money is needed at once, thus saving some interest costs, county finance officials have said.
Harford borrowed $55 million in February 2017, paying an average interest rate of 2.78 percent.
In addition to the two school projects, some of the other projects funded by the upcoming bond sale include circuit courthouse repairs ($650,000), Wheel Creek watershed restoration ($506,000), Prospect Mill Elementary HVAC replacement ($1.1 million), athletic field improvements ($2.1 million), Bush Creek sewage pumping station upgrades ($1.7 million) and the next phases of the Bynum Run parallel sewer line ($4.4 million).