County general fund in the black

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, July 21, 2010

NATCHEZ — The tax audits are in and the general fund is stocked with cash, but getting loans will not be much easier for Adams County until the bond rating is reassessed.

Adams County Chancery Clerk Thomas J. O’Beirne said a $400,000 balance will remain in the county’s general fund by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

However, when Moody’s Investor Services assessed the county in 2009, the last figures they looked at revealed a deficit of $2.2 million in 2008.

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As a result, the bond rating was downgraded from Baa2 to Ba1, or “moderate credit risk” to “questionable credit quality.”

After the assessment, the general fund balance at the end of September 2009 improved to a deficit of $853,000.

Now that the general fund balance is above zero for a change, O’Beirne said he hopes a reassessment will improve the bond rating.

O’Beirne said a better bond rating assures lower interest rates on loans.

In addition, loan institutions are more likely to grant the county loans with a better credit score.

O’Beirne said the general fund balance has shaped up partially due to the addition of Rentech, Inc., Denbury Resources and the Corrections Corporation of America facility on the tax roles.

O’Beirne said the Adams County Board of Supervisors has been giving consideration to the general fund since its bond rating dropped.

The county’s financial advisor, Demery Grubbs has said Moody’s Investors Services looks mainly at the general fund balance to determine a credit score.

Grubbs could not be reached by The Democrat before press time.

The low bond rating slowed the county’s plan to re-asphalt Deer Lake Road in June, due to some of the board members’ reluctance to take out a road bond with a high interest rate. The asphalt has since been laid.

“Hopefully (Moody’s) will give a new rating now. And if they do, they could raise it back to Baa2, or give it some other classification,” O’Beirne said.

O’Beirne sent a fax to Grubbs on July 16 with the positive news about Adams County’s fund balance.