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Restore our bond rating

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2014

The City of Vicksburg finished the 2013 audit to bring the city in compliance with all federal and state laws, as it relates to audits of this city. City Accounting Director Doug Whittington said “this FY 13 audit is the first one to be issued by the federal due date of June 30 of the following fiscal year since the 2004 audit report. We are now eligible for all grants available.”

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said the getting the audits current is part of the city’s plan to get its bond rating back. Moody’s Investment Services, a New York-based provider of credit ratings and risk analysis, pulled the city’s A-1 bond rating in February 2012. Getting that rating restored was one of Flaggs’ goals when he was campaigning for the mayor’s office in 2013.

The revenue a city collects is rarely enough to get the job done today, and officials must turn to loans or bond issues to make ends meet.

Vicksburg for is just like an individual with bad credit. Banks and bond agencies have been afraid to lend the city money, fearing the risk is too high.

The re-rating exercise itself, is expected to cost taxpayers $9,500.

We say that’s inexcusable. It’s kind of like paying an overdraft fee at a bank — take care of business, avoid the penalties.

It’s also inexcusable for a city the size of Vicksburg to go two years with no bond rating.

Like any responsible individual, the only way to receive a high credit rating is to pay the bills and perform basic fiscal duties in a timely manner. Anything less is unacceptable, especially when it’s taxpayers’ money.

The city fell behind in its audits in 2007, beginning with the fiscal 2006 audit, and by 2011 the 2008, 2009 and 2010 audits were delinquent. When Moody’s pulled the city’s bond rating it cited insufficient financial information on the city’s creditworthiness because Vicksburg did not have completed 2008, 2009 and 2010 audits. The 2008 audit was competed in 2012.

Whittington said, “the city of Vicksburg is in great position financially as well as in compliance to obtain a bond rating again, while restructuring the city’s debt due to low interests rates at a potential cost savings.”

Flaggs said the board is moving to get a new bond rating.

“As we speak, we’re now in the process of trying to request a review on our rating, which will not cost us anything to make the request,” he said. “And if we can get our rating, I anticipate calling the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to a meeting to talk about how we can restructure the debt, because interest rates are low now, and this is the best time to do it.

“There’s a possibility that we can save $40,000 to $50,000,” he said.

Vicksburg is making good fiscal management one of its highest priorities. And residents should expect that and accept nothing less.