Douglas County’s Credit Improves

On October 1, 2018, Standard and Poor’s Global Ratings (“S&P”) upgraded Douglas County’s credit rating to AA, an improvement from AA-. S&P’s rating symbols indicate degrees of creditworthiness, ranging from D to AAA, with AA being the third highest designation.   The S&P award is a great compliment and evidence of strong County management and financial responsibility.

The rating upgrade translates into a lower interest rate and reduced fees associated with the bond, thus saving taxpayer money. The benefit of the County’s improved rating will be felt immediately as the County gets ready to finance the portion of the Law and Justice Facility not paid from existing resources.

The program to upgrade the County’s credit rating was a multi-departmental effort involving the Offices of the Treasurer, Auditor, County Commissioners, and Countywide Administration. S&P reported that the County’s long-term financial planning, employment of rainy-day-reserves, prudent financial policies, and robust contingency planning have served to establish a financially stable platform for the County. They also recognized the County’s partnerships with outside service providers that provide additional non-tax revenue and its push to move – on an accelerated basis – behavioral health services to private sector providers, as significant contributions to financial stability of the County. S&P also took note of the County’s financial reporting awards, including the State Auditor’s Stewardship Award, received by Chief Accountant Karen Goodwin and TLS Accounting Manager Phil Young from the WA State Auditor’s office, which recognizes dedicated efforts to making government work better and a commitment to the audit process.

County Treasurer Nona Haberman and Treasurer-elect Natalie Marx attribute the County’s win to conservative budgeting, careful cost management, entrepreneurial revenue initiatives and recent Board policy reforms reducing barriers to growth. Additional contributing factors at play for the County’s financial stability reflect results of leveraging recognized County Road Division expertise including its award-winning consulting engineering work for the WA State Department of Transportation, recent cost control efforts to source cheaper long-duration providers for County needs, and the County’s balanced approaches to management such as incorporating the use of planned savings and property sales proceeds for the construction of the Law and Justice Facility rather than relying on property or sales tax increases for capital projects.

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