This is a press release from Essex County. Press releases are official statements that have not been independently verified.
Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced that Moody’s Investors Service has reaffirmed Essex County’s Aaa rating with a stable outlook in a review released on Wednesday, July 6th. Essex County received the Aaa rating for the first time in 2018 and has maintained this highest rating in each of the last four years.
“I view our ratings reports from Moody’s as our financial report card because it demonstrates the strength and stability of our finances and the confidence that Wall Street investors have in us,” DiVincenzo said. “Achieving the first ever Aaa rating for Essex County was a great accomplishment and we have been able to maintain that because of everyone working together my Department and Division Directors, the Board of County Commissioners, our Constitutional Officers, our county agencies and our 3,500 employees,” he added.
“Keeping our Aaa rating makes Essex County a more attractive community for residents and businesses and enhances property values,” the County Executive pointed out. It also helps Essex get better interest rates and attracts more prospective investors when the County issues bonds, he noted.
The eight-page report states that the Aaa rating reflects Essex County’s “healthy reserves” and “conservative budgeting practices.” It states: “Essex County’s strong governance is reflected in a score of G-1 (This is the highest rating in that category). The county has built a deep bench of civil servants and outside professionals to implement its policy objectives. This, plus a combination of a strong state-wide institutional framework and highly conservative budgeting, has allowed the county not only to strengthen its finances but to do so while providing various forms of assistance to its local governments.” This refers to Essex County partnering with the City of Newark on a $120 million loan to replace lead water service lines. The report also notes that “”The county’s financial position will remain strong in the near to medium term as management continues to budget conservatively” and “over the past several years, management has been consciously building reserves.” This refers to the $108.2 million fund balance Essex had in 2020, the latest year cited in the report.
Moody’s ratings report was issued for a series of bonds totaling $115.5 million. The proceeds from bonds reviewed provide revenue to finance County college improvements, various bridge, culvert, drainage, road, park and building improvements, and vehicle acquisitions.
Essex County earned the Aaa bond rating from Moody’s in August 2018, which was the first time Essex had ever had a Aaa bond rating. Essex has maintained the Aaa rating in each of the last four years. When DiVincenzo took office in 2003, Essex County had a bond rating just above junk bond status.
While strengthening Essex County’s fiscal position, DiVincenzo has stabilized tax increases. The 2022 budget included a zero percent property tax increase for the first time. Over the last five years, the property tax increase was limited to just 0.45 percent and, since 2012, the property tax increase has been limited to just 1.16 percent, well below the 2.0 percent cap limit mandated by the state.