Efforts to establish a new 911 Call Center for Boone County received a boost last week, as Moody’s Investors Service issued an Aa2 rating for the special obligation bonds being used to fund the project.
Aa2 is the third highest rating offered by the service. The bonds will be sold through a competitive offering on January 22, according to a Boone County press release.
Moody’s, along with Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Group, is one of the three primary credit rating organizations in the country. Their website says that an Aa2 rating represents bonds “judged to be of a high quality and subject to very low credit risk,” with issuers that “have a strong ability to repay short-term debt obligations.”
Moody’s also affirmed Boone County’s long term issuer rating of Aa1, the second highest rating of any Missouri county, and an Aa2 rating on the county’s lease revenue obligations, affecting $16.7 million of outstanding debt. A higher rating translates to lower interest owed on county bond debt.
A press release from Moody’s listed various county strengths as rationale for the strong ratings, among them a “large tax base bolstered by institutional presence.”
Moody’s also pointed out challenges the county faces, including reliance on “economically sensitive sales tax revenues.” This issue was also outlined in Boone County’s 2014 proposed budget, which said that the sales tax base was eroding due to an increase in remote and online sales, along with a shift toward a “service-based economy.” The proposed budget showed 52.6 percent of the general operating fund for the county coming from sales tax, down from 65.3 percent in the 2013 general fund.
The call center, to be constructed north of Columbia near the Boone County Sheriff’s Department, is expected to cost more than $14 million with $13.1 million coming from the special obligation bonds. Voters approved a three-eighths cent 911 sales tax in April 2014.
Last week, the county accepted a $9.9 million construction bid from Columbia-based Little Dixie Construction, clearing the way for the project to begin this year. The expected completion date is in the first quarter of 2016, according to presiding Boone County Commissioner Dan Atwill.