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Firm upgrades Nassau's short-term credit rating - with a catch

Fitch Ratings Inc., one of the big three Wall Street credit-rating firms, upgraded Nassau County's short-term rating from F1 to F1+ — the highest level and the first time the county has seen a short-term debt rating upgrade since 2011. 

But there's a catch. 

Fitch analysts told Newsday the upgrade was because of a change in the rating agency's criteria, not necessarily because of the improved fiscal outlook of the county. 

"It's more about the change in our methodology than a change in the county's finances," said Amy Laskey, primary analyst on the rating upgrade report issued on Tuesday. 

Nassau has a "A" rating for its long-term credit, which is "below average for a municipality," Fitch analysts said.

Last Monday, county legislators approved Nassau County Executive Laura Curran's $3.11 billion budget for 2020, injecting $5.8 million in tweaks. 

Earlier last month, NIFA, the county's financial control board, said Nassau could face a potential deficit of $47.5 million in 2020. 

“Typically, higher-rated credits receive lower interest rates — which may result in lowering the County’s short-term borrowing costs — a benefit for the County and its taxpayers. We are pleased to see that the changes made in Fitch’s criteria may have a positive outcome for the County,” Curran said in a statement on Friday. 

Earlier in the week, Curran said: "This upgrade is yet another sign that we are moving in the right direction. I am confident that transparency in how we spend taxpayer dollars will translate to good fiscal health."

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