County retains its AAA bond rating

LAWRENCEVILLE - The economy may be bad, but Gwinnett government's credit is good.

The day after announcing a hiring freeze during times of "flat revenues," officials announced Friday the county will keep its AAA bond rating from all three of the major rating agencies.

Only 23 counties have achieved the honor.

"For almost 11 years our fiscally conservative management philosophy has resulted in earning the highest credit ratings," County Administrator Jock Connell said.

In reports from Fitch, Moody's and Standard and Poor's, the three agencies recognized the challenges of a weakening economy and fiscal pressures but praised the county's resilience "due to prudent financial management, sound reserve policies and substantial pay-as-you-go financing of capital projects leading to a low debt burden," according to a press release.

Last year, officials approved a change in the county's reserves policy, keeping a two-month rainy-day fund instead of three months.

But the rating agencies signed off on the plan and came back with the highest possible rating when considering a $190 million bond package to pay for water and sewer projects.

"These excellent credit ratings result in significant savings on the interest we pay our bondholders and are solid evidence of our financial strength and stability as we navigate difficult financial and economic conditions," Chairman Charles Bannister said.