Kent’s fiscal balance in stark contrast to Washington tomfoolery


In the midst of the Great Flood of 2013, Kent County leaders were notified of the success of the annual trek to New York City for meetings with ratings agencies Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s. Both agencies rated Kent County with Triple-A credit ratings, the highest possible.

The fact that Kent is one of 58 counties in the U.S. (among 3,200) to receive the highest rating offers perspective to the achievement. Kent County had declared a state of emergency and extended it last week as a result of the record-setting flooding, which gives one pause as to the extreme and unexpected circumstance in which the county might have needed to cite its credit ratings.

This is in contrast to the scarring memory of U.S. legislators standing on the steps of the Capitol in August 2012, refusing to finalize the budget or negotiate. The resulting downgrade of this country’s credit rating is the legacy of demagogy.

It is interesting to note, too, that the state’s improving economic climate was cited by the ratings agencies. The interdependence of one to the other is evident and underscores the impact of Michigan communities on one another.

Grand Rapids Business Journal offers the business community another fact on which it can continue to set plans: Standard & Poor’s noted Kent’s “increasingly diversified regional economy” and that it continues to show signs of stabilization. The cranes again are beginning to dot the landscape throughout the county, residential real estate continues to rebound in value, and new construction is setting new records, certainly offering a bright view of the near-term horizon and continued recuperation in tax revenues.

Kent County also received the highest short-term credit rating possible from both agencies. The weight of such agency ratings have tremendous significance for this region, and recognition is due long-serving Kent County Treasurer Ken Parrish, County Administrator Daryl Delabbio and Fiscal Services Director Stephen Duarte. The agencies lauded the county leaders for the thoroughness with which the report had been prepared, noting few state governments — let alone counties — have provided such complete reports.

Delabbio told the Business Journal he wanted to cite the work of budget coordinator Marvin VanNortwick who put the report together.

The agencies also noted Kent has received the highest rating for 15 years. The report indicated, “Standard & Poor’s does not expect to change the rating within the two-year timeframe of the outlook.”

Even as Wayne County struggles through its fiscal crisis, the Michigan community is sustained in balance by the whole.

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