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Harford County prepares to sell $40 million in bonds, retains top AAA-bond rating

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Harford County will hold its annual bond sale Tuesday, as the county government seeks to raise $40 million to fund 60 capital projects.

Harford has also maintained its AAA bond rating, the highest possible rating issued by the country’s three major independent bond-rating agencies — Fitch, Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s, according to a news release from the county.

“We’re AAA again this year,” County Executive Barry Glassman said in an interview earlier this week. He said the ratings agencies “cited our budgeting and strong economy.”

Harford County is among 2 percent of counties in the United States to earn the top rating, according to the news release.

“I am proud that all three rating agencies have affirmed Harford County’s highest possible bond rating as a reflection of my administration’s strong fiscal management,” Glassman said in a statement included in the release. “I would like to thank my budget and finance team and all county employees for their good stewardship of taxpayer funds for the benefit of our citizens and Harford County’s next generation.”

The top bond rating means lower interest costs for the county as it borrows funds, county government spokesperson Cindy Mumby said Thursday.

“Our AAA bond rating lowers the interest rate that we have to pay to borrow money,” she said. “Our credit-worthiness has the highest possible rating.”

The county sells bonds via an online auction at the start of each calendar year, as investment firms from around the country bid on and purchase those bonds.

This year’s sale is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in the county administration building in Bel Air. The Harford County Council typically votes to approve the sale on the same day, and a “special legislative session day” is scheduled for the council at 2 p.m. Tuesday, according to the county website.

Harford County raised $50 million at 2.64 percent interest for its 2018 bond sale last January, the fourth consecutive year it has obtained an interest rate below 3 percent.

There are 60 projects listed in the resolution adopted by the County Council in October 2018, giving the county government the authorization to conduct next week’s bond sale.

They include projects that are ongoing, such as the replacement of Havre de Grace Middle and High School, and those that have been completed, such as the replacement of Youth’s Benefit Elementary School in Fallston.

The new elementary school, which brings all of its students under one roof after being separated in buildings for older and younger children, was dedicated in April 2018. The groundbreaking for the project, which involved building the new school in sections and demolishing the old structures, happened in the fall of 2014.

Other projects on the list for the 2019 bond sale include multiple stream restorations, repairs to the Harford County Courthouse in Bel Air, HVAC repairs and enclosing open classrooms in a number of schools, bridge improvements and water and sewer infrastructure improvements.

The county must repay the funds that it borrows through the bond sale. The AAA rating means “our borrowing costs are really as low as they can be,” Mumby said.

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