Latest credit ratings good news for city

By LISA CAPOBIANCO
STAFF WRITER
Bristol is seeing a boost in its economic profile, as it recently received an “outstanding” ratings from Fitch Ratings as well as Standard and Poor.
During last Wednesday’s Joint Board meeting, Board of Finance Clerk Glenn Klocko gave a brief report on the ratings, which he called “good news.”
“We received an outstanding rating in nine categories out of 30,” said Klocko. “It’s something positive for the month of December.”
Klocko said the three areas Standard and Poor reviewed included finances management, and social economics.
“If there was a report card, we had two As and a B+,” said Klocko, adding how the ratings recognized ESPN has a strength of Bristol’s economy.
Klocko said Standard and Poor reported Bristol has a “strong, local economy,” as its unemployment rate has dropped compared to a year ago.
“We’re ahead of the national unemployment rate and we’re slightly behind the state level,” said Klocko.
Standard and Poor also reported that Bristol has “strong budget flexibility,” which means the city has the ability to maintain and possibly enhance its services with a “very moderate mill increase rate if any,” said Klocko.
Klocko noted how the report mentioned that Bristol has a lot of cash reserves, which many communities do not have that failsafe.
In addition, the report mentioned “strong management practices” and financial practices are “strong, well-embedded, and likely sustainable,” said Klocko.
“Our finances are strong, they recognize that our practices are strong,” said Klocko.
“They liked our three-year financial forecasting…and we have that incorporated into our budget…They like the idea we have formal plans for a 10-year capital plan.”
Lastly, Standard and Poor reported that Bristol has a “strong debt and contingent liability profile.”
“We’re managing our liabilities—we’re putting  reserves aside for our post-employment benefits and heart hypertension and things like that, working with the Corporation Counsel’s office,” said Klocko.
Meanwhile, Fitch Ratings reported Bristol exhibits a healthy financial profile, it has low debt levels and strong management as well as mixed socioeconomic indicators. Fitch affirmed Bristol’s GO Bond rating at AA+.
“I’m hoping we can clean the slate of all the outstanding projects we have not bonded and we’ll start with zero going forward for the next few years,” said Klocko. “We’re bumping right up against a very good chance of an upgrade, and I think if the economy improves, that will happen,” said Klocko.
According to Fitch, Bristol’s “conservative” budgeting practices and the use of ongoing surpluses for one-time expenditures have contributed to its strong financial position, as stated in a Business Wire report. The report also noted Bristol’s low debt burden, as debt service as a percentage of government spending in Fiscal Year 2013 was “an affordable 4.7 percent.”
In addition, Fitch considered ESPN to be an “asset to Bristol’s economy” as the Disney-owned company employs 4,000 people and accounts for 8 percent of the city’s fiscal 2013 taxable assed value. It noted other economic drivers, including the city’s technology park and the existence of energy, manufacturing, and real estate industries, as well as stronger income and wealth indicators compared to national levels. Bristol’s poverty rate of 11.3 percent is currently below the national rate of 15.9 percent, and its current unemployment rate is 6.3 percent, which is down from 7.9 percent a year before, according to Business Wire.
Comments? Email lcapobianco@Bristol Observer.com.