Harris County Secures Highest Rating Possible
by: Pat Hernandez, May 3, 2010 3:05:00 am
The rating means Moody's, the New York based credit rating agency, believes Harris County bonds to be the highest quality with the smallest degree of risk. This is Harris County Judge Ed Emmett:
"Over the years and before I became county judge obviously, Commissioner's court has lived within their means, and have taken on projects in such a way that they made financial sense to the people who loan money and to people who buy bonds, around the country and around the world. So, the rating agency looks at that history and then they look at recent activity. I think they looked at the way we handled our budget in this sort of a down turn that we're all going through and so, they are in essence telling anybody who wants to invest in Harris County, that this is the safest place you can invest your money."
When other government agencies around the country are failing and losing their ratings, Emmett says Harris County can continue to plan for the future.
"Well, we are completing the toll road system, for example. Currently, we're building out Beltway-8. We'll be extending the Hardy Street toll road into downtown as the next project, and all of those will allow us to get a better bond rating than we've had."
Commissioner Sylvia Garcia calls the AAA rating the most coveted designation by any local government or any member of corporate America.
"There's three rating agencies that look at the financial status, financial health of local governments. That makes it two, Moody's and Standard and Poor."
The higher rating applies to the tax-supported debt of Harris County, the Toll Road Authority, Flood Control and the Port of Houston. Commissioner Garcia says it tells investors that bonds offered by Harris County and its affiliated agencies are low risk.
"We face a very challenging year next year because of the appraisals having come in much lower. Our property values are much lower now than they were, so we're all having to do a lot, but I can just tell you this, that all of us are doing everything humanly possible to hold the line, and make sure that we don't have to raise taxes, that's our goal."
PH: "Commissioner, having been controller with the city, you know what this means, but for the average Harris County resident, how are they to benefit?"
Garcia: "This means that if we ever have to borrow money, that we will get the lowest interest rates available at that time. But the best news is that it's a good signal that we're managing well and that we have plans, and that's what's important. We know where we're going."