MUNSTER | Standard & Poor’s has raised the town’s bond rating two levels, from A to AA-.
Perhaps the best gauge of a municipality’s fiscal scenario is embodied in its bond credit rating. Higher ratings translate into less interest to borrow money through issuance of general obligation bonds.
“This two-step increase in our ratings is welcome news and will result in interest savings to taxpayers in our future lendings,” said Council President John Reed, R-1st.
Standard & Poor’s highest rating is AAA, three levels higher than what the town enjoys now. Considering the town’s robust finances, a triple-A rating may be possible when the town is rated again in three years, officials said.
In its rating of Munster, Standard & Poor’s commented, “As a result of the levy freeze being lifted after Lake County adopted the 1.5 percent local option income tax, the long-term fiscal outlook appears to be more stable for Munster.”
The rating service described Munster’s economy and the town’s financial liquidity (cash on hand) as “very strong.”
Town officials say there’s more to financial scenario than the impact of the county income tax.
“Over the past 10 years the town has reduced its workforce by attrition and early retirement programs,” Town Manager Tom DeGuilio said. “We have combined several departmental operations in an effort to continue to provide better service levels to our residents.”
He added, “The improved rating is in part the result of the town’s efforts to work through the past several years of tax constraints imposed by the state. These include the 2007 levy freeze and the constitutional tax caps.”
Speaking of bonding matters, the council approved spending $1.97 million from general obligation bonds for road paving projects ($1.2 million), starting with Homan Avenue, with the remainder earmarked to buy radios to comply with the Lake County E-911 program.
The council also approved spending a $1.97 million park bond for baseball field construction and other improvements at Community Park and new equipment and green space expansion at Monon Trail Park north of Ridge Road on the west side of Manor Avenue.