Oklahoma City gets top credit ratingPublished: Wednesday, April 1, 2009 7:00 am By: Steve Lackmeyer
Oklahoma City residents can expect to spend less on building streets and bridges, thanks to receiving the highest debt rating possible from Standard & Poor's.
The move from AA+ to AAA puts the city into an elite group of the best municipal credits in the market.
"When it comes to economic news, this is as good as it gets," Mayor Mick Cornett said Tuesday in a news conference at City Hall.
Oklahoma City is the only city in the state to receive the top rating, which was released Monday. A few of the factors that contributed to Oklahoma City's high rating include:
- Oklahoma City's expanding regional economic base.
- Ongoing downtown redevelopment.
- Consistently strong financial performance and position that includes strategic business planning, multi-year forecasts, balanced budgets, long term capital plans and compliance with reserve policies.
- Conservative financial management practices.
- Low debt and an affordable capital improvement program.
- Political and management stability.
City Manager Jim Couch credited a veteran city staff with making the rating possible. Some of the same staffers also have led in redevelopment plans for the Skirvin Hilton hotel, creation of the Dell campus along the Oklahoma River, and the luring of Bass Pro Shops to Bricktown.
Couch said the high ratings will translate into lower interest rates the city pays to sell bonds to fund major capital projects like streets, bridges, buses, sidewalks and trails and park improvements. Those savings, he said, will be available to spend on bond projects.
The city's next bond sale will be April 9, and Couch said the new rating ought to help the city in what has been a strained market since September's economic crash.
The rating also showed the national bond rating agencies' confidence in the city's investment climate, Couch said. Other comparable cities with a AAA rating include Phoenix, Austin, San Antonio, Denver, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Charlotte, Columbus and Seattle.