City of Huntsville maintains highest credit rating

City of Huntsville maintains highest credit rating

The city of Huntsville has again received top scores from two national credit rating agencies, giving the city the financial muscle to borrow about $85 million to help fund a wide-ranging list of projects.

That list includes about $25 million in infrastructure toward the completion of the Greenbrier Parkway in Limestone County – an incentive the city gave to help lure the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA facility to the Rocket City.

Officials announced Monday that the city of Huntsville had received the highest scores from credit rating agencies Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s. Huntsville has received top credit rating scores for the past decade – a distinction that, according to the city, less than 1 percent of city and counties receive.

The credit agencies commended the city for its strong economy, management, budgetary performance and flexibility as well as its liquidity and weak debt.

“The tremendous growth in Huntsville, our ability to work together strategically, efficiently and collaboratively has made this success possible,” Mayor Tommy Battle said in the announcement. “We’ll use these high credit marks to borrow money at exceptionally low interest rates to fund projects in the City’s capital improvement plan.”

Armed with top credit ratings, Huntsville plans to issue about $85 million in debt.

According to the city, about $50 million will be earmarked for capital projects for greenways, parks and recreation improvements, libraries and public safety.

Among those projects: John Hunt Park, Merrimack Park, Brahan Spring Park, Goldsmith-Schiffman Stadium, the Dr. Richard Showers, Sr. Recreation Center, Cavalry Hill Community Center; construction of the new Councill School Park and Hampton Cove-area Recreation Center; Iceplex improvements, support for the new libraries on the Berachah Campus and Sandra Moon Complex; and construction of the Public Safety Training Complex and Police Firing Range.

Another $10 million will cover costs for downtown parking garages.

“It’s been a plan and a strategy for the past 10 years,” Battle told when asked about borrowing $85 million. “You’ve been able to see it on our 10-year capital plan that we’ve had that plan and strategy of borrowing that money for the past 10 years. We still have very low debt-to-citizen ratio or debt-to-GDP ratio. Very low. If you look at the quotes that came out of the Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s rating review, they said we have a very well-managed financial plan. We told them we are going to be coming back next year and the next year. This is the time with the growth that we’re having that we have to invest to keep up with that growth.”

In a presentation on May 2, City Administrator John Hamilton told the city council that the city had $396 million in chargeable debt. That debt is paid down each year from six different city revenue streams, Hamilton said.