Following the induction ceremony of Brigantine's four ward council members Wednesday, Jan. 4, City Manager Ed Stinson announced that Brigantine improved its Standard & Poor's long-term bond rating status three levels to AA. Doing so, he said, helps to lower the city's interest rate when bonding for capital improvements, and raises its credit limit for potential borrowing.
According to standardandpoors.com, S&P uses several bullet points to establish a municipality's long-term bond rating, the most important being the economy, management history, financial well-being and current debt. An AA rating means that the municipality has established itself as having exhibited a very strong capacity to meet its financial commitments.
There are only two levels higher than the one Brigantine has achieved through S&P, which is among the standard bearers for determining a city's credit rating, along with Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings Inc.
Stinson and Mayor Phil Guenther gave much of the credit for Brigantine's high rating to longtime city auditor Leon Costello and chief financial officer Roxanne Tosto, who came to the position in 2015 after 13 years as Vineland's CFO.
“This is a reflection on Leon and Roxanne, and the passion and commitment they have for Brigantine,” Guenther said. “You have made it possible for this to occur through working with our city manager and our department heads.”
Costello said that his work essentially involved implementing the direction given him by the city's department heads and elected officials, but noted that while other Atlantic County municipalities have been getting downgraded in long-term bond status, it was a major milestone to not only move up the scale, but move up so dramatically.
Tosto also praised the direction given to her by city officials.
“It is always a pleasure working with Brigantine's department heads,” she said. “They have given me nothing but support and encouragement, and it is a pleasure to feel appreciated.”
The only other formal business at council's first meeting of 2017 was to approve the minutes of the final two meetings of 2016, held Dec. 21 and 27.
During the public comment portion of Wednesday's meeting, resident Fran Chambers praised council and the city in general for all their efforts in assisting veterans. He pointed to the New Year's Day polar plunge as a shining example.
Numbers were still being tallied as donations to the Fisher House Foundation for families of wounded soldiers continue to come in, but this year's total contributions likely surpassed the record set two years ago of $78,000.
“What this city does to support veterans is phenomenal,” said Chambers, “so thanks from a veteran on behalf of all veterans.”