The rating agencies S&P Global Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service have affirmed Harnett County’s credit rating. The ratings come in advance of the County’s sale of Limited Obligation Bonds to fund construction of the new Harnett County Resource Center and Library, an expansion of the existing Department of Social Services Building, and required site and off-site improvements for the Harnett County Government Complex. The North Carolina Local Government Commission approved the County’s request to issue the debt at their September 10 meeting.
The rating announcements came following a review of the County’s current financial outlook with members of the County’s management team and representatives with Davenport & Company LLC, the County’s financial advisor.
S&P assigned its A+ rating to the County’s Series 2019 Limited Obligation Bonds. The agency also affirmed its A+ rating on the County’s existing Limited Obligation Bond debt and its AA- rating on the County’s existing General Obligation debt, and stated that the County’s outlook is stable. The agency noted that the rating “reflects a long-term trend of strong financial performance and flexibility, supported by increasingly comprehensive management practices and policies.”
S&P highlighted the County’s “strong management, with ‘good’ financial policies and practices.” The agency mentioned the fiscal policies instituted by the Harnett County Board of Commissioners along with the County’s recently updated 7-year Capital Improvements Program, which “includes detailed project descriptions as well as estimated costs and funding sources by year.”
Additionally noted was the County’s strong budgetary performance.
“The county has demonstrated a long-term trend of positive operating performance over the past ten years, and we do not expect that to change,” the agency stated in its rating announcement.
Moody’s assigned its Aa3 rating to the County’s Series 2019 Limited Obligation Bonds. The agency also maintained the County’s Aa2 issuer rating and its Aa3 rating on the County’s outstanding Limited Obligation Bonds. Among the reasons cited for the rating were Harnett County’s “favorable location between Raleigh and Fayetteville,” and its “growing tax base,” along with the County’s “healthy reserves and liquidity, and manageable fixed costs.”
Moody’s previously upgraded the County’s rating from Aa3 to Aa2 in 2017 prior to the sale of $29.5 million in General Obligation Bonds to fund construction of the new Benhaven Elementary School and several other education-related projects. That bond sale was part of the $100 million School Bond the County’s voters approved in 2014.
“We are pleased that these agencies have recognized the efforts of the Harnett County Board of Commissioners and our management team to plan for the future in a fiscally responsible manner,” said Harnett County Manager Paula Stewart. “Harnett County is growing, and with that growth comes increased demand for services and for space. This project will help the County meet these demands for decades to come, and will provide adequate space for some of the County’s most important public-facing departments like Veterans Services and the Harnett County Public Library. There will also be a large training area and meeting space for County departments, community partners and the public – something that really doesn’t exist anywhere in the County currently.”
In addition to the improvements within the Harnett County Government Complex, Stewart said the project will allow other County agencies to fill the space that will open up once this project is completed, bringing nearly all of the County’s two dozen departments to a single campus.
“Consolidating all County services within a single campus has been a goal ever since the land for the Government Complex was purchased more than two decades ago,” said Stewart. “This will make accessing County services more convenient for citizens, will allow the County to get out of some of the leases we’re currently paying for to house staff, and will open up additional facilities that can house some of our partner organizations or be sold for Economic Development.”
The County will sell the Limited Obligation Bonds on September 18, and has issued a notice to proceed for work to begin on the project. County officials will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Resource Center & Library in October and anticipate the project being completed in early 2021.