Ratings service assesses city for 1st time

City of Williamsport officials believe sound fiscal management has helped it achieve a significantly high rating from Standard and Poor’s Ratings Services.

Most recently, Standard and Poor’s assigned its A+ rating and stable outlook to Williamsport’s $9.685 million series 2013 general obligation (GO) refunding bonds based on its local GO criteria.

It marks the first time Standard & Poor’s has rated Williamsport.

Standard and Poor’s noted the city’s strong budgetary flexibility and performance, “very strong liquidity, providing very strong cash to cover debt service and expenditures,” and strong management and financial policies.

Mayor Gabriel J. Campana credited the city’s financial team.

“Department heads stay within their budgets,” he said.

City overhead, he said, is kept low with employees juggling various responsibilities.

The mayor noted, for example, that he also serves as the city’s public safety director.

In its report, Standard & Poor’s noted the city’s weak and somewhat limited economy, although Lycoming County’s average 2012 jobless figure of 7.8 percent was below state and national averages.

The city’s budgetary flexibility was strong with reserves above 14 percent of expenditures for the past three fiscal years. In addition, audited 2012 reserves were $3.3 million, about 20 percent of expenditures.

The tax millage of 11.58 is well below the 25-mill cap, providing the city with great flexibility to hike taxes if needed, according to the report.

William E. Nichols Jr., city finance director, said it’s noteworthy that the city has produced revenues of at least 3 percent greater than what is budgeted.

Standard and Poor’s also noted the city’s “weak debt and contingent liability profile.”

“Williamsport provides defined-benefit retirement plans for full-time employees and full-time firefighters and police officers; combined city contributions in fiscal 2012 totaled $1.1 million, or 5.2 percent of governmental fund expenditures,” the report stated. “Williamsport also provides other post-employment benefits (OPEB); in fiscal 2012, it contributed $2.1 million toward the OPEB fund, or 28,2 percent of the annual required contribution and 10.3 percent of total government fund expenditures.”

Standard and Poor’s concluded that it expects the city to continue with strong budgetary performances.