Standard & Poor’s Tuesday raised its long-term rating to AA-plus from AA on the Columbus Airport Commission’s lease revenue bonds. The outlook is stable.
“The upgrade reflects what we view as the city of Columbus’ long-term maintenance of very strong reserve levels and financial operations,” said analyst Richard Marino.
The rating also reflects the city’s economy, which is centered on the service and governmental sectors, its position as the regional economic hub for the greater 16-county metropolitan area, and a steadily growing property-tax base that has continued to increase despite the economic downturn.
Columbus is in Muskogee County, 110 miles south of Atlanta along the Interstate 85 corridor. Fort Benning, the city’s leading employer with nearly 41,432 civilian and military personnel, has a stabilizing effect on the local economy.
“Columbus expects to see substantial economic growth in the next several years, largely because of the most recent base realignment and closure,” Marino said.
The tax base is diverse and continues to grow at a steady pace with 2.2% growth in fiscal 2010. The market valuation of property rose to $11.3 billion, or $60,822 per capita.
“Columbus’ financial position remains solid after posting four operating surpluses in the past five fiscal years,” according to Marino. “After a surplus of $17.3 million, the general fund unreserved balance rose to $45.8 million at the close of fiscal 2010, or what we consider a very strong 30.1% of expenditures.”
Overall debt is low at $1,040 per capita and 1.8% of property value.
“The stable outlook reflects our expectation that continued growth in the local and regional economy will increase and foster a healthy tax base growth,” Marino said. “The outlook also reflects our expectation that user fees and sales tax collections will assist in offsetting the city’s inability to increase the tax millage above the 9-mill limit.”