Charles County Government News Briefs

Celebrating "Matthew Henson Day" in Charles County

Pictured with the Commissioners is James E. Henson, Sr., Esq., the great nephew of Matthew Henson. (Photo: George Clarkson)
Pictured with the Commissioners is James E. Henson, Sr., Esq., the great nephew of Matthew Henson. (Photo: George Clarkson)

The Charles County Commissioners recently proclaimed April 6 as “Matthew Henson Day” in honor of a native son who is historically given credit as the first man to reach the North Pole in April of 1909. Matthew Henson (an African American) was born in Charles County around 1866. After being orphaned at an early age, he traveled to Baltimore to begin his life at sea where he became friends with the famed explorer Robert E. Peary. Henson traveled with Peary on his explorations of Central and South America, and he accompanied him on all eight attempts to find the North Pole. Matthew Henson was the cousin of Josiah Henson (also born in Charles County), who was the inspiration for the Harriett Beecher Stowe novel titled, “Uncle Tom's Cabin.”

Commissioners Don Historical Attire for 350th Anniversary Event

(Photo: George Clarkson)

County Commissioner President Wayne Cooper, dressed in colonial garb, points to a framed copy of the Declaration of Independence, as he readies himself to participate in an upcoming local historical event. All of the Charles County Commissioners will be participating in the (non-traditional casting) re-enactment of the 1658 signing of the document that created Charles County, Maryland. The event, one of many scheduled activities celebrating the 350th Anniversary of Charles County, will take place on Saturday, April 12, at 2 p.m. at the Port Tobacco Court House.

County Gets Positive and Stable Rating Outlooks from Bond Rating Agencies

Charles County received high ratings and a positive outlook from Standard & Poor's. Standard & Poor's gave a positive outlook rating to the County's “AA” rated consolidated public improvement bonds. In addition, Standard & Poor's assigned its “AA” long-term rating to the county's consolidated public improvement bonds series 2008. Fitch Ratings gave the County an “AA+” rating in all areas and Moody's Investors Service assigned a “Aa2” rating to Charles County's tax-exempt and taxable bonds.

“The rating actions reflect the deepening of the County's local economy, increasing wealth levels, historically low unemployment, and steady and consistent tax base growth with no taxpayer concentration,” said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Danielle Leonardis. “The County reports strong financial operations and solid reserve levels and has ample revenue raising flexibility to address possible state aid shortfalls.”

“These highly positive ratings are a result of sound fiscal policies and prudent management of our financial operations and capital programs,” said Commissioner President Wayne Cooper. “Charles County is in a good position to weather the uncertainty of today's economy.”

According to the Fitch Ratings report, the rating outlook for Charles County is “stable” due to strong fiscal management, low overall debt levels, and solid economic indicators such as low unemployment and above-average wealth levels. Moody's Investors Service reported that they expect the County to maintain a sound financial position given the County's proactive management and satisfactory revenue-raising capacity.

The County estimates to end fiscal 2008 with a planned drawdown of $19.7 million, primarily for capital projects ($16.1 million), and other post-retirement employee benefits contributions—as such they do not represent a structural budget imbalance.

The estimated ending fund balance at the close of fiscal 2008 is $53.6 million or a still sound 18.5% of revenues. Excluding self-supporting enterprise debt, the County's overall debt burden is a low $1,324 per capita and 1.2% of market value. Amortization of debt is faster than average, with 82% of all principal to be retired within 10 years, and 100% in 16 years.

Bond proceeds from the tax-exempt bonds will be used to fund various capital projects, including $9.925 million for education projects and $9.1 million for water and sewer projects. Proceeds from the taxable bonds will primarily be used to finance the construction of the Southern Maryland Stadium and Entertainment Complex ($17.0 million).

County Bond Sales Successful

The Charles County Commissioners announced that the County sold $27 million in tax-exempt Consolidated Public Improvement Bonds on Tuesday, March 25, 2008, at an interest rate of 3.819732 percent to Commerce Capital Markets, a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania investment banking firm.

“The County received a total of 11 extremely competitive bids, ranging from 3.944214 percent to 3.819732 percent,” said Commissioner President Wayne Cooper. For the ninth year in a row, the County used Bloomberg’s on-line bidding system.

“Wall Street has a very high opinion of our solid management of Charles County’s finances, and that’s one of the most independent and objective evaluations there is,” said Commissioner Gary V. Hodge. “Wall Street’s confidence in Charles County is demonstrated by our very positive bond ratings and the extremely low interest rates we received yesterday when we sold our public improvement bonds.”

A. Sam Ketterman, Senior Vice President of Davenport & Company, LLC, commented that Charles County has a proven track-record as a strong, well-managed County. “If you consult the Bond Buyer Indexes, a community like Charles County might expect to receive an interest rate on the sale of its bonds in the 4.82 percent range. Instead, the County received a considerably lower rate, because of its performance.”

Commissioner Vice President Edith J. Patterson congratulated the County’s fiscal staff, headed by Ms. Deborah Hudson, for their expertise and professionalism in preparing for the bond rating presentations in New York and preparing for the sale of the County’s public improvement bonds.

The County also sold $20 million in taxable Public Improvement Bonds at an interest rate of 5.058067 percent to Morgan Keegan & Co., Inc. of Memphis, Tennessee.

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