Freeport maintains A1 rating from Moody's

Former Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick on Oct. 2, Former Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick on Oct. 2, 2013. Village Attorney Howard Colton said the negative outlook by Moody's Investors Service "was the culmination of four years of poor spending and budget practices" by Hardwick. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Moody's Investors Service has kept Freeport's rating at A1 for $6.925 million in general obligation bonds and $115.5 million in outstanding "parity debt," with a negative outlook.

"The negative outlook reflects the sizeable pressures management faces to regain structural balance, reduce reliance on one-time revenues and restore reserves to satisfactory levels," Moody's said in its statement last week. The rating "also reflects the expectation that ongoing tax appeals with several of the village's largest taxpayers could drive additional declines."

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The report noted that the A1 rating -- considered upper-medium grade and low credit risk -- reflects the village's narrow financial position and weakening of the regional housing market. Village officials said they were not concerned about the rating.

"An A1 rating is given to show a low credit risk," said Village Attorney Howard Colton. "It is considered an 'upper tier,' rating. Freeport is not adding new debt. The rating was issued to allow Freeport to convert older bond anticipation notes into bonds. The negative outlook was the culmination of four years of poor spending and budget practices of former Mayor Andrew Hardwick . . . Freeport anticipates that the negative outlook will be removed shortly."

Hardwick said he doesn't understand Colton's comment. "The last two budgets passed were [Mayor Robert] Kennedy's," he said. "That's the problem, primarily." Kennedy defeated Hardwick in 2013 after Hardwick had served one term.

Moody's noted that Freeport -- the second-largest village in the state with more than 42,000 residents -- has strengths, including "manageable net direct debt burden" and "above average wealth indices."

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