Not only are the Town of Niagara's finances in good shape, but because of its prudent budgeting and fiscal management, its bond rating has been increased, Town Board members were told Tuesday.
Patrick D. Brown of Brown & Co. LLP, the town's independent auditor, capped his audit report for the year ending Dec. 31, 2009, with congratulations to Supervisor Steve Richards and his board. Moody's has reviewed the town's 2009 financial results and has given notice they are upgrading the town's bond rating from Baa1 to A1, which will mean thousands of dollars in potential savings to taxpayers on any future borrowing by the town, Brown said.
"The upgrade in bond rating, particularly in these difficult economic times, speaks volumes of and reflects the prudent budgeting and fiscal management of the town over the years," he said. "The town's philosophy has basically been that it operates on a pay-as-you-go and as-you-are-able-to-pay, and has managed its debt effectively and prudently, with low outstanding long-term bonded debit of $1.4 million, which is one of the lowest in the county. Only borrowing when absolutely necessary and not mortgaging the future is a big reason for this bond rating upgrade."
Richards said as the town moves forward on the next phase of its community center and town park off Lockport Road, the new rating should save the town about $56,000 a year in interest.
Brown's audit showed the town's financial position is stable and in good condition.
"All of the town's operating funds are just about where you want to have and maintain them, having adequate surplus fund balances to address unforeseen/emergency situations," he said. "The surpluses are reflective of prudent, conservative and realistic budget estimates of revenues and expenses."
The only area of concern, Brown said, was in the court fines revenue line, which was about $57,000 under budget for 2009, or about 19 percent under budget and 2008 revenues. This revenue must increase or the cost of operating the courts will be under-funded, he said.
"We have tried over the years to pay as we go. We should be proud of that, especially nowadays," Richards told the board.
In other matters:
"This budget we're working on now, it's going to be a tight one," he warned, noting that the town's population is getting both older and smaller.
The town is proposing increasing dog license fees from $5.50 for a spayed or neutered dog to $10, and from $13.50 to $15 for a dog that has not been spayed or neutered.