County financial outlook ticking upward

By Vicki Hyatt | Feb 21, 2014

The Haywood County Board of Commissioners got good economic news on several fronts Monday.

The county recently learned its Standard and Poor bond rating rose from an A+ to an AA, said Julie Davis, the county’s finance officer, but is a good sign of financial health and signals that the county’s bonds might be more marketable.

"Bond purchasers (investors) look at the ratings in order to judge the capacity for repayment," Davis said. "A higher bond rating, which equates to strong potential for repayment, often means lower interest rates on those bonds – which means a lower cost for the taxpayers of the county."

The S&P upgrade was mainly due to a strong economy and access to the Asheville Statistical Area, as well as the county's lower unemployment rate, strong budgetary flexibility and an increase in reserves, Davis said.

Even if the county doesn't borrow large amounts through issuing bonds, smaller amounts the county may want to borrow may be looked on more favorably by banks and again, lower interest rates and lower cost, Davis said.

The other piece of good news is that revenues appear to be about $1 million more this year than they were at this time last year.

The county’s main revenue streams include property taxes, sales taxes and other revenues, including state and federal reimbursements, licenses and fees.

Last year at budget time, Davis anticipated sales tax would be up by 9 percent, an estimate that has proved to be on target.

When Duke LifePoint Health Care finalizes its purchase of MedWest Haywood, sales taxes will increase even more. That’s because, as a for-profit business, DLP will be paying sales tax on its purchases.

Davis said based on last year’s MedWest-Haywood purchases, the increased sales tax revenue would be about $77,000 for the county only. The school system and the community college would also benefit as portions of the sales tax are earmarked for these entities.

“And that’s a very conservative estimate,” Davis said.