Westfield’s High S&P Rating Affirmed, Outlook Revised to ‘Stable’
Monday, August 26, 2013 • 9:03pm
WESTFIELD, NJ — A new report by Standard & Poor's (S&P’s) Ratings Services revises the Town of Westfield’s outlook to stable from negative and affirms its “AA+” rating on Westfield’s general obligation (GO) debt.
According to the report, “The revision is based on a number of financial changes that have had positive effects on the town's operations. In the past year, the town has taken several actions to bolster balance operations and reverse the downward trend in fund balance.”
The rating reflects S&P’s opinion of the following credit characteristics of Westfield:
· An affluent, mature, residential community with lower-than-average unemployment due to town's access to diverse labor markets in New Jersey and New York City;
· Extremely strong wealth levels;
· A large tax base with no concentration although there has been some slight declines' and
· A low debt burden with limited capital needs.
The report cites the town’s first operating surplus in five years due to several measures, including the revenue gained from the sewer fee and other non-tax revenues, such as construction, parking and court fees.
“On the expense side, the town has also become more prudent in spending and has reduced its staff through attrition as employees retire. The revenue enhancement and cost reduction efforts are ongoing and should bolster income and reserves each year,” the report states.
It also cited one-time benefits related to Superstorm Sandy, as reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for storm-related expenses will be reflected in the town's finances this year.
“As the chair of the Town Council’s Finance Policy Committee, I can attest that Westfield’s strong financial condition is the result of the collective efforts in recent years of the mayor, the town council, the town administrator and our department heads to address our economic challenges head-on,” said Councilman Sam Della Fera. “I intend to continue to work with Mayor Skibitsky, [Town Administrator] Jim Gildea and my council colleagues to make the sometimes difficult decisions necessary to keep the town on a solid financial footing.”
“The recent report by S&P confirms that Westfield is in excellent financial shape under Mayor Andy Skibitsky, and Finance Chair and First Ward Councilman Sam Della Fera deserves credit for his outstanding leadership in improving our financial outlook,” said Councilman Keith Loughlin.
The town’s credit rating was downgraded last year from S&P’s highest rating of AAA.