Weber County Receives AAA Credit Rating Before and After COVID-19 Pandemic
Inspired by the advice of an economist who presented at a 2018 meeting to “put your house in order, financially, by the year 2020,” Weber County Commissioners Jim Harvey, Gage Froerer, and Scott Jensen, and Weber County Treasurer John Bond set in motion a two-year plan to do just that: put the Weber County finances in “order.” With input from the County Auditor and Comptroller, the plan to reduce debt, increase liquidity, and improve the county’s credit rating was set in motion and meticulously implemented step by step. By December 2019, the Weber County financial goals were realized.
The plan started with the refinance of debt on the animal shelter, which resulted in huge interest savings. Those savings and additional pooled savings were put toward paying off the remaining debt of the Pleasant Valley Library. Next, both the Ice Sheet and Health Department buildings were paid off. Then, as part of the plan, the county took steps to refinance the larger of two bonds that the county received for libraries during 2013-2015, which totaled 45 million. As a part of the refinance process, the county’s credit rating was re-evaluated by two of the three major credit rating agencies. In 2013, when the county initially got the bonds, credit rating agency Fitch gave Weber County a AAA rating, the equivalent of an 850 FICO score. This rating was given to only 72 out of 3,006 counties nationally, ranking Weber County among the top 2% of counties in good financial standing. The credit review of AAA from Fitch has been twice re-affirmed since, most recently for the 2019 review. The credit rating agency, Moody’s, was also included in the current review and, due to the county’s debt reduction from the previous two years, Weber County’s credit rating was upgraded to AA1, just one step under AAA. These esteemed credit ratings allowed Weber County to refinance the library bond at a lower interest rate, the final implementation of the two-year financial plan. The refinancing resulted in over two million in interest savings to the county.
Of course, no one, not even Treasurer John Bond, could have predicted the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic or anticipated how important the financial health of Weber County would be. Having reached the two-year goal of reduced debt, increased liquidity, and good financial standing, the county was able to carefully, thoughtfully, and successfully navigate through hiring and purchasing freezes that began in March of 2020.
“We have worked hard over the past three years to get positioned to weather any economic challenges that might come to our county. Last year was the test for that model, and we were very successful in getting through that test, thanks to good insight, wisdom, and decision-making by the commissioners and the finance team.”
–John Bond, Weber County Treasurer
“The excellent financial position of Weber County sends a powerful message to the community: one of confidence, forethought, and preparation. Every minute spent in meetings and the steps we implemented to reach our financial goals was worth it. We work diligently, in all capacities, to keep Weber County one of the best places in the United States to live, work, and gather together.”
–Commissioner Gage Froerer