Essex County earns Aaa rating from Moody’s Investors Service

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — Moody’s Investors Service has awarded Essex County a Aaa Stable bond rating. According to published reports by Moody’s, this is the first time Essex County has received an Aaa rating.

“This is great news for Essex County and validates all the hard work we have done for the past 16 years. I want to thank Moody’s for giving my administration the opportunity to prove ourselves and for listening to our story of transformation in Essex,” Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. said. “We achieved the Aaa rating because of everyone working together — my department and division directors, the Board of Freeholders, our constitutional officers, our county agencies and our 3,500 employees. I appreciate everyone’s support and that we all shared the same goal.

“The higher bond rating displays the trust and confidence that Wall Street has in Essex County’s finances and will help us get better interest rates and attract more prospective investors when we issue bonds,” DiVincenzo continued. “For our residents, having a Aaa rating makes living in Essex County more attractive and will enhance property values.

“When I was elected in 2002, Essex County was going through its most difficult financial time. We inherited a $64 million budget deficit and Moody’s was on the verge of downgrading our bond rating to junk bond status, which would have put us in the same category as Orange County, Calif. Even before I was sworn into office, my team met with Moody’s, laid out our plan for financial recovery and asked them to give us a chance to address our budget problems,” DiVincenzo concluded.

Moody’s six-page report states the award was warranted because of DiVincenzo’s conservative budget practices and initiatives to build a fund balance.

“Over the past several years, management has materially improved the county’s finances, which are now very healthy,” the report reads. “Essex County’s strong management has been a major driver in its financial improvement. Management has implemented conservative, proactive budgeting, and has consciously chosen to rebuild reserves to healthier levels than had previously been the case.”

Moody’s re-examined Essex County’s finances in anticipation of the county issuing general obligation bonds in September to pay for various capital improvements throughout the county, the expansion and renovation of Essex County West Caldwell School of Technology and for various capital improvements at Essex County College. Essex also will be selling bond anticipation notes to finance capital improvements in the Essex County Schools of Technology District and to support various bridge, culvert, drainage, road, parks and building projects.