Howard County has received an AAA credit rating, the highest possible score, in its annual credit review by the nation's top three credit agencies, County Executive Ken Ulman announced in a statement Friday.
An AAA rating means that Howard County can issue debt for capital projects at the most favorable interest rates available, which translates into savings for taxpayers, the statement said.
Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investor Services and Standard & Poor’s recognized the county for its fiscal management, employment base and growth potential, according to a statement from Howard County.
"Each agency carefully examines the county’s tax base, financial policies, debt burden and much more," said County Council Vice Chairperson Courtney Watson, who participated in briefings with the rating agencies this year. "Bottom line—these ratings show that we are doing a good job in making the right decisions on behalf of the community."
Howard County is one of just 40 counties among 3,000 in the U.S. to earn the AAA rating from all three agencies, according to the report.
“Howard County has achieved this mark of fiscal responsibility and strength during every year of my administration," Ulman said.
"This year’s rank is especially significant," he added. "Through federal budget sequestration, and before that, a painful recession and challenges in the housing market, we have continued to make important investments and smart decisions. Howard County is well-positioned for the future."
Each agency issued a report describing Howard County’s strengths as follows, according to the county's statement:
Fitch noted "prudent management and planning," "low levels of unemployment" and "robust income indicators” as strengths.
Standard and Poor’s mentioned Howard County's "deep and diverse local and regional economies coupled with a highly educated workforce" as assets plus called out the county's initiatives to attract new business and encourage expansion.
Moody's cited the proximity of Fort Meade as a factor in the county's solid financial position, noting the military base employs 39,000 people, or 13.1 percent of county residents.