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Cobb’s financial outlook upgraded thanks to tax hike, agencies say

File Photo: AIC
File Photo: AIC

Two New York-based agencies reaffirmed Cobb's Aaa credit rating this month and upgraded the county's financial outlook from "negative" to "stable" thanks partly to a tax hike passed last summer.

Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings both said the county appears to be in good financial shape, despite a low funded pension ratio of 51.6 percent.

“The revision of the outlook to stable from negative reflects the county’s sizable surplus in fiscal 2018, largely due to a tax rate increase,” Moody’s said in a statement. “The outlook also reflects the county’s strong tax base growth, driven in part by the county’s proximity to Atlanta’s large, diverse and growing economy, leading to healthy increases in property tax revenue.”

Chairman Mike Boyce, who spearheaded the tax hike, touted the latest reports as vindication and said the increase put the county on solid footing going forward.

In a follow-up conversation, Boyce acknowledged the challenge posed by the pension fund. But, he said, the county had taken responsibility by committing to a 30-year plan and adopting more realistic assumptions about investment returns and the life expectancy of pensioners.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: We’re not happy where it’s at,” said Boyce. “The key thing is that the rating agencies understand why we are where we are and it’s not because we’re doing any shenanigans with the numbers.”

Cobb is preparing to vote on its next budget and millage rate at the end of July. Commissioners have proposed keeping the millage rate the same.

The first public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, July 9 at 9 a.m. at the county government building on Marietta Square.