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Hall County gets bond rating boost
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Hall County’s bond rating has been upgraded to AA from AA- following a clean audit report released last month.

Fitch Ratings upgraded the general obligation bond rating given the county’s “strong commitment to the restoration of its reserves and financial flexibility in the recent economic recovery,” according to a press release.

Hall County officials said the improved bond rating will help lower interest rates and provides more certainty for investors.

“The upgraded rating from Fitch is further evidence of sound fiscal management by Hall County’s elected officials and staff,” Hall County Financial Services Director Zach Propes said in a statement. “We will continue to work diligently to maintain this positive rating by being responsible stewards of the public’s funds.”

Moody’s Investors Service and Standard and Poor’s also weighed in and confirmed their previous ratings for Hall County of Aa2 and AA-/Stable.

Bates, Carter & Co. LLP, a Gainesville firm issued a “clean opinion” for the county’s 2016 fiscal year budget, noting that no significant deficiencies were found in the annual audit.

Though revenues decreased by $1.7 million in the last fiscal year, which ended June 30, from the prior year, overall expenditures remained within the final approved budget.

Increases in local option sales tax and property tax revenue of $665,000 and $196,000, respectively, helped offset some of the overall losses.

Expenditures increased $1.4 million from the previous year and were over the budgeted amount by $2.1 million, and the county used just $1.9 million in reserve funds to balance its budget.

The county still has more than $21 million in reserves left over.

The county’s long-term debt is $2.5 million, most of which is tied to business park development bonds and capital leases for EMS and the Sheriff’s Office.

“We are very pleased with the upgrade, which is undoubtedly a reflection of the Hall County Board of Commissioners’ fiscal responsibility and conservative budgeting principles,” Hall County Administrator Randy Knighton said in a statement.