By Emily Toy
Southampton Town has cleaned up its act . . . at least with its finances, that is.
Last week Standard & Poors (S&P) upgraded Southampton Town's credit rating from AA to AA+, ultimately affirming the strong financial management of the town over recent years. In a report issued June 27, S&P cited "the town's successful implementation of structural and technical reforms that have stabilized its financial position and bolstered reserves in its non-general operating funds."
Two days earlier, Moody's affirmed the town's Aa1 rating, stating, "The Aa1 rating reflects the town's ample reserve and cash levels resulting from the strong financial management, large affluent tax base, and a low debt burden."
The results show a severe change in the management of the town's finances.
"Proper budgeting enables the town to deal with the unexpected without burdening taxpayers, which we've done now for three years," said Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. "I'm proud that throughout a lingering recession and several major storm events, we have been able to cure multi-million dollar deficits and achieve operating surpluses while continuing to provide high quality services, and holding the line on taxes," she said.
Back in 2009, Southampton was placed on credit watch by S&P. It eventually downgraded the town's rating in 2010 following what S&P called "several years of overspending across several major government and special district funds."
Some changes the town made since receiving its poor rating four years ago include centralizing purchasing, adopting a capital spending cap, codifying its fund balance policy into law, and revising the town code for capital budgeting.
"This upgrade reinforces the Aa1 rating previously provided by Moody's and is another indicator of the soundness of the fiscal management, and the organizational and structural changes implemented since 2009 as stated in the report," according to Michael Kelly, member of the town's Budget and Finance Committee. "This upgrade is very good news for the town and a compliment to the good work of both the staff and the management."
Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst agreed. "This ratings upgrade by S&P and the Aa1 affirmation from Moody's underscores the merit of the financial policies and procedures implemented over the past three years, and the now healthy fiscal position of the town," she said.