Vauss insists Moody’s bond upgrade is deserved

IRVINGTON, NJ — Mayor Tony Vauss announced Monday, Nov. 23, that Moody’s Investor’s Service bond rating service had once again upgraded Irvington’s bond rating, the second time it had done so since he took office on July 1, 2014.

But in an email on Tuesday, Dec. 1, Irvington NAACP Vice President Kathleen Witcher suggested new home ownership in the township was due to the process called “flipping,” where houses are bought at cut-rate prices and resold for profit. “Isn’t that a prime factor in bond ratings?” asked Witcher on Tuesday, Dec. 1. “Creditworthiness cannot come when there is transiency all over the place.”

“I think there is something unexplained when the bond rating for Irvington is presently reported,” said Witcher. “We must find out what is missing in this report. How the town will grow and maintain its housing stock at this point is questionable. At least something should be done about pending foreclosures.”

However, Vauss went on the record stating his pride in both of the bond rating improvements that have occurred on his watch as mayor.

“It’s literally a vote of confidence from a major bond rating agency,” Vauss said on Tuesday, Dec. 1. He said Moody’s revised Irvington’s outlook to stable. And he said that means Irvington has good credit.

“For a second time in less than two years, our bond rating has moved up,” said Vauss on Monday, Nov. 23. “This improvement to a B-a1 underlying rating and A3 enhanced rating will further enable Irvington to move forward with capital improvements to make our town clean and safe. Improved bond ratings means we are better able to bond for investments, like our street sweepers, fire trucks and senior bus, because the money costs us less.”

Vauss said Moody’s vote of confidence in Irvington was comparable to a favorable credit report or credit score for individuals. He said, “The better your credit is, the lower your interest rate.”

But Vauss said Moody’s positive outlook for Irvington has the added benefit of increasing interest in town for investors, creditors and developers. He said it’s a win-win for Irvington.

And Faheem Ra’Oof, the township’s chief financial officer, said Vauss is right. He also said it is a big turnaround for Irvington from the previous administration with Mayor Wayne Smith, when Irvington was audited by the state of New Jersey and found to be in need of improving its records and bookkeeping methods and procedures.

“This improvement in our rating by Moody’s is based upon a number of factors, including an increase in the township’s current fund balance and cash reserves over the last year,” said Ra’Oof on Monday, Nov. 23. “Our outlook has been revised to ‘stable’.”
This means Moody’s previously considered Irvington to be unstable, but now the financial ratings agency is looking at the town differently and Municipal Council President Charnette Frederic said that is a good thing.

“I congratulate CFO Mr. Faheem Ra’Oof for a job well done,” Frederic said on Monday, Nov. 30.
“From the legislative perspective, we will continue to work to improve it even better.”
Vauss said he agreed with Frederic. He also said he views the news from Moody’s as more proof that entities outside of Irvington have noticed the positive changes that have taken place and are viewing the town and everyone in a better and more optimistic light.

And Vauss said that’s a positive trend he wants to see continue.
“It’s happened twice since I took office,” Vauss said on Monday, Nov. 30.
“The thing about that is people have confidence in Irvington and our budget is sound.

“We’ve been able to reduce taxes and people are starting to take notice that Irvington is a place that people want to do business.”
Vauss said the majority of residents inside Irvington are aware of all the positive changes that have taken place in the last year too.

And he said that kind of positivity is what inspires him to ignore the negativity that seems to constantly come from a very small number of people in town that want to cling to the past instead of embracing the future.
“We’ve been able to save the township considerable amounts of money — in some cases, millions in restructuring these bonds,” Vauss said.

“Having a good bond rating allows us to get great interest rates.
“It allows us to restructure the bonds that we had before and save the township money.”

Vauss said anyone interested in learning more about the township’s improved bond rating can contact Stephanie R. Bush-Baskette at 862-216-7254 or sbush-baskette@irvingtonnj.org.

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