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School system receives two AAA bond ratings

SUWANEE - Gwinnett County Public Schools has received the highest possible rating from the two agencies that evaluate the district's financial stewardship, officials announced Tuesday.

Standard & Poor's recently raised the school district's rating from AA+ to AAA, while Moody's Investors Service reaffirmed its AAA rating, said Sloan Roach, the spokeswoman for Gwinnett County Public Schools. The school district is not rated by Fitch Ratings.

Gwinnett County Public Schools was the first school system in Georgia to earn a AAA rating and is one of five districts nationwide to receive the rating from both Standard & Poor's and Moody's.

Chief Financial Officer Rick Cost said he is pleased the district's efforts to be the "best stewards of public funds" have been recognized.

"Taxpayers will benefit from the lowest interest rates possible on the sale of our bonds, which translates into a benefit for our students as more money will be available to build much-needed classrooms," he said in a news release.

About 73 percent of voters approved a referendum in February to allow the school district to issue up to $750 million in general obligation bonds. The money will be used to fund Phase II of "The Plan," the school system's timeline for getting students out of trailers and into traditional classrooms by 2014.

Gwinnett County Public Schools' favorable bond ratings are based on the school district's continued maintenance of a strong financial profile in spite of limited state aid growth, as well as the district's ability to maintain a favorable debt profile throughout a period of rapid growth and substantial capital needs, the news release states.

"Earning the highest ratings from both agencies is an accomplishment of which our school system and our community can be quite proud," Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said in the news release. "We have achieved something few school districts in the nation have been able to do. The triple-A ratings are strong statements of our Board of Education's record of fiscal accountability and provide a strong outlook for the school district's financial future."