As interest rates continue to creep up due to increases by the Federal Reserve, strong financial management and fiscal stability has helped Ocean County continue to garner a lower interest rate for the sale of general improvement bonds.
“The bond rating houses have again confirmed Ocean County’s AAA bond rating,” said Ocean County Commissioner John P. Kelly, a liaison to the Ocean County Department of Finance.
“That bond rating – the highest possible – is the result of the conservative fiscal policies put in place by this Board of Commissioners.
“That rating allows us to obtain the best interest rates when we are borrowing money for infrastructure and other needed improvement projects,” he said.
A recent sale of $52.4 million of General Obligation Bonds by Ocean County resulted in 15 bidders with the successful bidder being Mesirow Financial Inc. with an interest rate of 4.078 percent. The bonds were sold at an electronic competitive online auction allowing for the greatest response from bidders.
Kelly noted the rates received varied from the lowest at 4.078 percent to 4.268 percent.
Deputy Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners Gary Quinn, who serves as co-liaison to the Ocean County Department of Finance with Commissioner Kelly, said the change in the interest rate from last year was minimal, increasing from 3.44 percent in 2022 to 4.078 percent.
“Of course unfortunately we are not looking at the rates of even a few years ago which was as low as 1.5 percent in 2021, but those changes are driven by the Federal Reserve,” Quinn said. “If it were not for the fiscal steps we take at the County throughout the year to maintain financial stability which results in the AAA bond rating, the interest rate might have been much higher.
“These numbers save the taxpayers a tremendous amount of money,” he said.
The $52.4 million in bonds are being issued to fund infrastructure projects including: improvements to Castlebuono Avenue in Toms River Township; reconstruction of Bridge Avenue, Bay Head; renovations to the Ocean County Juvenile Detention Center, Toms River; construction of a traffic signal at Route 571 and Beacon Street, Manchester Township; reconstruction of Herflicker Boulevard, Toms River Township; facilities improvements at Ocean County College and permitting and construction of the Ocean County Courthouse Annex in Toms River Township.
“The bonds are used to finance various capital projects that include facility improvements, construction, reconstruction and road resurfacing projects,” Kelly said. “The money is used for brick and mortar projects that have a long life.”
Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners Joseph H. Vicari emphasized the importance of the County keeping its AAA bond rating.
“The AAA bond rating helps us retain low interest rates and has also helped us during emergencies like natural disasters,” Vicari said.
“It’s because of the financial discipline of the Board and its policies carried out by the staff that we continue to be in this stable position.”
Vicari noted the bond rating houses that provide the rating continue to echo what the County says about the importance of being fiscally conservative.
Moody’s Investors Service said “the County’s AAA rating reflects strong financial management and fiscal stability, which leads to virtually no variability in its financial operations.”
Fitch ratings stated it viewed the County’s budget management as strong, evidenced by its history of deploying various budgetary tools and maintaining a sufficient fiscal resource base during periods of economic stress.