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Howard County has received the highest possible credit rating for the 18th year in a row.

Citing the county's budget management practices and diverse tax base, all three top bond ratings agencies -- Moody's Investor Services, Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings -- awarded Howard a AAA rating.

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Credit ratings assess the ability of a government or business to repay its debts. Howard is among 41 counties in the nation, out of more than 3,000, to earn the AAA rating from all three agencies.

The rating will also allow the county to issue debt for capital projects at favorable interest rates, according to a press release.

County Executive Allan Kittleman called the news "an affirmation" of the county's "sound fiscal management, responsibility and strength."

Last month, Kittleman announced a plan to resolve a $15.8 million deficit in the current fiscal year's budget. In a statement, he pointed to "decisive action in resolving" the budget shortfall as one of the reasons Howard ranked so highly. An educated workforce, low unemployment rate and ability to attract new business also play a role, Kittleman said.

Once they become available, the full bond rating reports will be posted on the county's website, howardcountymd.gov, officials said.

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