Ahead of a scheduled $40 million bond sale Jan. 26, Harford County has maintained its top-tier credit rating, County Executive Barry Glassman announced Tuesday.

Each of the major municipal bond rating agencies, Moody's, Fitch, and Standard & Poor's, gave Harford a Triple-A rating, Glassman said in a statement, also noting that Harford is only one of five counties in Maryland to earn the top rating of all three agencies.

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The top credit ratings will mean Harford's newest debt should bring the lowest interest rates in the marketplace, Glassman and several other county officials said.

The county plans to sell general obligation bonds, primarily to complete funding for projects already underway, County Treasurer Robbie Sandlass said. About two-thirds of the $40 million to be borrowed will be used for general capital or highway projects, he said, while the remaining third will be for water and sewer projects.

According to bond authorization legislation passed by the County Council in September, $13 million will be borrowed for the Youth's Benefit Elementary School building replacement, $2 million each for HVAC system replacement at the Center for Educational Opportunity in Aberdeen and Prospect Mill Elementary School, $2 million for the ongoing HMAN high speed public broadband system and lesser amounts will be borrowed for several watershed restoration and bridge repair/replacement projects.

Glassman said each rating agency "cited the county's economic diversity and strong management," while Fitch also noted the county's adherence to "conservative debt management guidelines."

Standard & Poor's, Glassman's statement continued, noted the county's "very strong management, with strong financial management policies and practices …", and Moody's said: "The county benefits from prudent and active financial management. In fiscal 2015, the county took steps to right size staffing, reduce costs by outsourcing services when financially beneficial, and reduce non-essential capital spending."

"I am pleased that all three rating agencies have reaffirmed the county's Triple-A bond rating, and recognized my administration's dedication to efficiency and fiscal responsibility," Glassman said.

During a brief presentation to the County Council Tuesday night, Director of Administration Billy Boniface said the continued high ratings will mean "a significant amount of savings – millions of dollars."

When administration officials met with the rating agencies in New York recently, Boniface continued, "I'm most proud that they spoke of our strong financial management team," whose policies, he said, were important to keeping the top ratings.

Though Harford is still carrying a total debt burden that is a bit above average for a county its size, Boniface said the administration's decision last year to raise water and sewer usage rates for the first time in decades was a "key component" in the bond ratings. He thanked the council for supporting the rate increase.

"I wouldn't be sitting up here and smiling if we had not addressed this issue," he said.

"This is where the rubber meets the road," Councilman Jim McMahan said of the Triple-A ratings. "This is no small accomplishment; it means you will get the lowest possible interest rate."

McMahan was effusive in his praise of Glassman and his management team, telling Boniface: "You have done a marvelous job since you have been here."

"We can look up and say, 'By golly, we all did it together,'" he continued. "And who benefits? The citizens of Harford County."

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