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Nye County’s credit rating increases first time in 8 years

Following several consecutive years of financial strain and instability, Nye County has taken many steps to get back on a positive fiscal track and the fruit of that effort can be seen in the most recent Moody’s Investor Service report, which shows the county’s credit rating has increased for the first time in eight years.

“Moody’s Investor Service has upgraded Nye County’s issuer rating to A2 from A3. Concurrently, Moody’s upgraded the rating on the county’s General Obligation Limited Tax Bonds, Series 2010B to A2 from A3.

The rating action affects approximately $20.68 million in bonds rated debt outstanding. The credit rating is used in the calculation of rates for new debt and refinanced debt at better interest rates, saving taxpayers money,” a news release from the county detailed.

“I would like to highlight a couple of the strengths with regard to this credit opinion and commend all parties, all members of the county, county commission, county management, as well as department heads and elected officials for this improvement. It has definitely taken everyone in the county to generate this increased credit opinion from Moody’s,” Nye County Comptroller Savannah Rucker told the commission during its Sept. 4 meeting.

She explained that several actions had positively affected the credit rating, including moving volatile revenue sources from the general fund into the capital improvement fund and continuing to maintain healthy general fund reserves.

“We have a lot of economic development happening in Pahrump and Tonopah, across the entire county, with Round Mountain Gold’s expansion, Spring Mountain race track and Pahrump’s expansion and the housing developments coming to the area,” Rucker added, noting that this directly affects the county’s tax base and therefore, its tax rating.

The county’s recent focus on controlling the liability from its Other Post-Employment Benefits program, which provides health insurance for county retirees, has also played a part in increasing the county’s credit rating, Rucker said. “We are working towards relieving some of that liability with regard to our collective bargaining agreements and I think there has been significant improvement,” she stated.

One of the biggest credit challenges for the county, however, is the amount of land that is under federal control, rather than privately owned.

Nye County Commissioner Debra Strickland lamented the fact that this is one aspect that is entirely outside of the county’s control. Federal lands provide only a tiny fraction per acre in taxes compared to privately owned properties. Nearly 98 percent of the land within Nye County, the third-largest county in the nation, is managed by federal agencies.

Rucker also made sure to note that with the increased credit rating, she will now begin to explore options for refinancing the county’s jail bond payment, with the hope of yielding a better interest rate. “The county was issued a $21.83 million, 30-year jail bond in August 2010 for the construction of the Nye County Sheriff’s Office detention center in Pahrump. The current interest rate is 6.08 percent,” a news release stated.

Overall, Rucker said she felt the county was doing well, remarking, “We are financially stable, we are planning well, planning for the future.”

“It’s under your guidance and leadership, so don’t leave yourself out. You’ve done a great job,” Nye County Commissioner Lorinda Wichman said, with chairman John Koenig chiming in, “I’ll second that!”

Rucker replied, “I am only as good as my staff. My team has been an amazing support system for me, county management and the board. It’s all of us contributing.”

In the news release, Rucker also stated, “The improvement of the credit rating for Nye County is the direct result of a well informed and effective board, prudent management, proper financial planning, and well informed and efficient staff.”

The upgrade to A2 reflects the credit profile of the county and the strength of the full faith and credit pledge in Nevada, the release explained, which Moody’s rates at the same level as the issuer ratings of local governments in the state.

To view the report in its entirety go to bit.ly/2kaARa5

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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