Oneida County Maintains High Financial Standing in Spite of Pandemic

Stellar Credit Ratings Issued by All Major Agencies for 2021

Oneida County has maintained its high financial standing in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, having received stellar ratings from all three major national credit agencies for 2021.

Fitch again rated Oneida County AA for 2021, while S&P Global repeated its AA- rating and Moody’s reaffirmed its A1 status.

“Strong conservative fiscal policies of cutting spending and limiting our debt, have created a solid financial foundation that has allowed us to weather the COVID-19 pandemic while still investing in our community and growing our tax base,” said Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. “I am pleased that the three national credit agencies have maintained our high ratings while commending the steps we have taken to mitigate the economic damage that 2020 brought and recognizing that the future is bright for Oneida County.”

All of the agencies pointed to several exemplary county management factors that contributed to their high ratings.

Fitch, which gave Oneida County a stable outlook, said its decision reflected the county’s “very high financial resilience, modest debt burden, low carrying costs and modest expansion of the local property and sales tax base.”

The agency commended the county for its “early action to stabilize its budget in 2020 in response to project revenue shortfalls due to the onset of the pandemic.” Those actions included a hiring freeze with the exception of essential public safety positions, reduction in part-time workers, an early retirement incentive and discretionary spending cuts. That maneuvering resulted in $8.2 million in savings for all governmental funds, including $6.2 million in restricted general fund contingency funds.

S&P Global said its rating reflected its opinion of the county’s “strong budgetary flexibility” and its ability to maintain “very strong liquidity, buoyed by strong management.” The agency said those factors provide the county with “the flexibility and resiliency to absorb near-term budgetary challenges during the recent COVID-19-related recession and economic uncertainty related to pandemic restrictions.”

Moody’s attributed its rating to the county’s “solid management that maintains consistent operating results, proactive expenditure controls amid uncertain operating environment and well-sized tax base.”

The agency went on to compliment the county on retaining its large-scale economic development projects, such as Cree and Orgill, despite the recent economic downturn. Moody’s said it believes the county has adequate reserves to withstand a budget decline in 2021 and that it expects the county will “continue to meet any revenue weakness” thanks to manageable fixed costs that pose no threat to its credit standing.

“The continued affirmation of our high ratings is reflective of the county’s sound financial, budgetary and operational management structure,” said Oneida County Comptroller Joseph J. Timpano. “This could not have been more evident than during the collapse of our economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”