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Dunn County’s Standard and Poor’s rating improves to AA (County saves 1/2 percent interest on $7 million in bonds)

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MENOMONIE — Dunn County’s bond rating with Standard and Poor’s has been upgraded from an AA- to an AA rating.

The upgrade in the rating means that Dunn County saved a half a percent in interest on the $7 million in bonds that were sold in December for funding the remodeling of the old Dunn County Health Care Center and the Government Center and to purchase a new accounting system, said Tonya Kusmirek, the county’s chief financial officer, at the Dunn County Board’s January 15 meeting.

The bond sale in December was the second part of the sale. The first sale of bonds for funding the projects took place in August, she noted.

Dunn County’s credit rating was upgraded in December for several reasons, Kusmirek said.

The first reason is that Dunn County exercises good budget flexibility. The second reason is that Dunn County has “operational balance” in the budget — or in other words, the county board sets the budget and then the county sticks with that budget, she said.

The third reason is that Dunn County has good liquidity, which means that the county has a certain amount of cash reserves available, Kusmirek said.

Jim Anderson, county board supervisor from Menomonie, noted that the county’s bond rating also had improved because of a change in the bond-rating formula.

The formula uses the household income per capita, and in the past, university students were included in the household income. Including the students’ income decreased the county’s overall household income, he said.

The formula has changed, and Dunn County now has a higher per capita income, Anderson said.

Kusmirek agreed that the change in the formula had helped Dunn County improve its bond rating.

As for the sale of the bonds, Dunn County received five competitive bids, she said.

The bids ranged from a low interest rate of 2.674 percent to a high bid of 2.8619, Kusmirek reported.

Robert W. Baird & Company submitted the low bid, and the bond sale was awarded to Robert W. Baird, she said.

The interest rate on the low bid was less than had been projected, Kusmirek said.

In May of 2013, the Dunn County Board approved borrowing $17 million to remodel the old health care center for people services, such as the Department of Human Services and the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC), to remodel the Government Center on Wilson Avenue, and to purchase a new accounting system.