City maintains its top-notch bond rating

By JEN CARDINES

STAFF WRITER

Once again, New York based company Fitch Ratings Inc. awarded the City of Bristol an “AAA” bond rate, which is the highest possible rate a municipality can obtain.

Mayor Ken Cockayne said that he and city officials gave a phone presentation to Fitch, providing the company with the city’s analytics. For the second year in a row, Fitch gave Bristol the “AAA” bond rating.

“We felt that we were going to be reaffirmed and we were,” Comptroller Glenn Klocko said to the Board of Finance and City Council at their joint board meeting last week. “What’s interesting about Fitch doing that is they didn’t do it on a full-blown presentation…it’s called surveillance calling, an update. That’s rare to get a AAA on an update.”

Key drivers of the rating include a healthy financial profile, low debt, strong management, and mixed socioeconomic indicators. While Fitch was quick to offer the rating, the city is still waiting to receive scores from two other rating agencies, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s.

Representatives from those companies travelled to Bristol recently for a presentation given by Cockayne, Klocko, Bristol’s development authority director Justin Malley, and members from the Comptroller’s office. The tour covered every corner of Bristol, and ended with a one-hour tour of the ESPN facility.

“We wanted them to see our highest taxpayer,” Cockayne said. According to a recent press release, the top 10 taxpayers in Bristol make up nearly 12 percent of taxable assessed value, with ESPN having the largest share.

“[ESPN] really went above and beyond. We had lunch and our meeting in their conference room so that was pretty impressive to sit at ESPN.”

“We got to sit behind the sports desks and the analysts were all beaming that they could show this to their kids and families,” Klocko added.

The city officials prepared facts and figures for the presentation and said they practiced multiple times prior to the real deal. Both companies have not visited in Bristol in a number of years, so officials wanted to ensure a strong performance.

Currently, Moody’s has Bristol at a “AA2” – the next rate would be a “AA1” then “AAA” – and S+P has the city at a “AA+” where the next rate would be a “AAA.” Cockayne and Klocko said they hope the two agencies report an increased rating after reviewing their presentation. The mayor does not feel that the rating will go backward; rather, he thinks it will either stay the same or increase.

“Our goal is to stay where we are with hopes to go up,” he said. “We have a great rating, and we want to be in the elite category.”

City officials and representatives from national bond rating agencies meet at ESPN recently.