Citing the city's strong financial management and buoyant economy, Standard and Poor's has assigned its highest rating -- AAA -- to Bellevue's general obligation bonds.
"This is great news and yet another sign of our commitment to fiscal stewardship," said City Manager Steve Sarkozy. "It's especially gratifying given the fact other cities have had difficulty maintaining their top bond ratings due to the uncertainty over the housing market and overall economy."
Standard and Poor's issued its rating prior to the city's issuance of $14 million in bonds to pay for street and sidewalk improvements. Wall Street's other major bond rating service, Moody's Investors Services, Inc., also assigned a high rating to the bonds, Aa1, or excellent.
Jan Hawn, Bellevue's Finance Director, said the two ratings position the city well in the bond marketplace.
"It's a major accomplishment for the city to continue to receive high ratings from both services," Hawn said. "It's not only an indication of our strong economy, but also how our financial practices are perceived by the experts.'
In its analysis, Standard and Poor's noted the "vibrant and diverse" Puget Sound area economy and its above-average wealth and income levels. The service also noted the city's low unemployment rate -- 3.6 percent in 2006 -- and its position as a major retail trade center with per capita retail sales at 173 percent of the national average.
The bond rating service also noted the city's robust downtown development.
"Development activity in downtown Bellevue remains strong, despite recent slowdowns in the economy," the company remarked. "During 2007, 5.4 million square feet of office, retail and multifamily units were under construction. In addition, there is roughly 7.6 million square feet of new development planned for the next few years."
Both Standard and Poor's and Moody's also cited the city's effective and well-established financial practices.
Moody's noted Bellevue's "financial operations are characterized by sound reserve levels and a diverse revenue base," comprised of sales, property and business sand occupation taxes, while Standard and Poor's remarked that the city's management practices "are strong, well embedded and likely sustainable."
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