Kent County Finances Are AAA-OK

    GRAND RAPIDS — The financial spotlight shone brightly on Kent County last week, as the public body received good news and two accolades for its financial performance and reporting method.

    First, Moody’s Investor Service and Standard & Poors, two major credit-rating firms, again verified the county’s long- and short-term bond ratings as triple-A.

    This is the third consecutive year the county has received both firms’ highest ratings, which makes Kent and Oakland the only county governments in the state to have triple-As from both services.

    Moody’s and S&P said Kent’s cash reserves, financial diversity, expanding economy, and moderate debt burden are the outcome of its sound financial practices. In turn, the highest credit ratings mean lower interest payments for county taxpayers on bond issues.

    “The reaffirmed ratings are a reflection of the efforts of staff, elected officials, and the board of commissioners alike to manage the county’s finances efficiently,” said David Morren, commission chairman.

    “The board takes great pride in its role as being a responsible steward of public funds,” he added.

    “We continue to work hard to maintain our strong credit rating,” said Daryl Delabbio, county administrator and controller. “The fact that both rating services have maintained our triple-A status, especially in light of the current fiscal environment, is a credit to our Board of Commissioners and staff.”

    As if news of the ratings weren’t enough, the county also learned last week that it earned the highest honor for financial reporting. The Government Finance Officers Association of the U.S. and Canada awarded Kent County its Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for 2001.

    This most recent award — the most prestigious honor out there for public sector financial reporting — marked the 13th time Kent has won the certificate in the past 14 years.

    One of the criteria to win the award requires a candidate to clearly communicate its fiscal story through a “spirit of full disclosure.”

    “This is no surprise,” said Morren, also a CPA. “County administrative and fiscal staffs have consistently demonstrated outstanding skills, as our history of achievement in receiving this award indicates.”

    Morren credited the efforts of former Fiscal Services Director David Wachum, Deputy Director of Fiscal Services Stephen Duarte, Accounting Manager Francine Farrington, and the county’s auditing firm BDO Seidman.

    On top of that honor, the Government Accounting and Standards Board also recognized Kent County for implementing a new industry requirement a full year before it takes effect. The edict, known as GASH Statement 34, directs governments to report on their overall state of fiscal health, which gives anyone interested easy access to the county’s financial data.

    Kent was only the fourth county in the state and 28th nationwide to apply the standard to its reporting effort before the imposed deadline.           

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