CHICAGO - Moody's Investors Service has hit the Rock Island County Forest Preserve District in Illinois with a triple-notch downgrade and warning that further action could loom over its fiscal challenges.

The rating agency lowered the forest preserve district's unlimited general obligation rating to A2 from Aa2 earlier this month and assigned a negative outlook. The limited GO certificates rating was lowered to A3 from Aa3.

"The A2 GOULT rating reflects the district's weakening financial profile, including structural imbalance that has led to the narrowing of operating reserves, a sizeable tax base that is coterminous with Rock Island County and a modest direct debt burden," Moody's said. The county is rated A3 with a negative outlook.

The rating also reflects the district's governance ties to the county of Rock Island. The same members who serve on the Board of Commissioners for Rock Island County also serve on the Board of Commissioners for the Forest Preserve District.

"It is our view that the governance of the county and the district are interconnected. Supporting our view is language in the county's audit that states county board members have the ability to impose their will on the district," Moody's said.

Future support from the district in the form of transfers or intergovernmental loans to the county would likely result in a rating on parity with the county.

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