Tri-Village News

Eight years after Big Bear's demise, city earns S&P's top bond rating

Mayor lauds departing City Council members for fiscal accomplishments

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Grandview Heights City Council received an early Christmas present at its meeting Monday, Dec. 16.

After reviewing the city's credit rating, Standards & Poor's Ratings Services has raised the rating by two levels to AAA -- its highest level.

S&P had given Grandview a AA rating last year when the city acted to sell bonds to pay for park improvements.

The AAA rating signifies the city has a strong economy and displays outstanding financial management by its finance department, administration and City Council, bond counsel Brian Cooper said in making the surprise announcement to council.

Grandview is among the smallest municipalities in Ohio to have earned a AAA rating, he said.

"You can now compare yourself to (other central Ohio municipalities with a AAA rating such as) New Albany, Columbus, Delaware County, Dublin, Upper Arlington and Westerville," Cooper said. "From my perspective, that is a very strong accomplishment."

The AAA rating will lower the interest rate at which the city can borrow money, if needed, he said.

S&P recently revised its rating criteria, leading to the re-evaluation of Grandview's status, Cooper said.

Local economy and city management now make up 50 percent of the criteria, he said. Another 40 percent is composed of financial matters, including budget management and flexibility.

Director of Finance Bob Dvoraczky said he learned last Thursday, Dec. 12, from S&P that the city's rating would jump to AAA.

Representatives from the agency had interviewed him twice in recent weeks as part of its review of the city's finances, he said.

The AAA rating "is a result of strong leadership of the mayor and City Council and residents supporting us during our financially challenging times," he said.

Council member Anthony Panzera, who is chairman of council's finance committee, said Dvoraczky and his staff deserve much of the credit.

"We rely on him in our committee. We rely on his judgment and knowledge base," Panzera said about Dvoraczky.

"He's never turned down any request" for more information or provided anything but sound and accurate information and guidance, Panzera added.

This week's meeting was the last for council President Steve Reynolds and council members Susan Jagers and P'Elizabeth Koelker.

It is fitting that such an important accomplishment should be announced at their last meeting, because in their years on council, the three have accomplished quite a lot themselves, Mayor Ray DeGraw said.

When Big Bear folded, the city lost 8 percent of its tax revenue, and by 2005 it was down to 24 days of operating cash.

"We were declared economically distressed by the state of Ohio. We lost a higher percentage of jobs than any other city in central Ohio," DeGraw said.

But "council showed we were open for business and came up with creative incentive deals and had a good relationship with the business community," he said.

Despite further economic downturns, the city persevered with the development of Grandview Yard and voters' approval of a permanent 2.5 percent income tax, DeGraw said.

"We've gone from economically distressed to AAA rating. You leave with the city close to a $4 million year-end cash balance," he said. "You may not recognize what you have accomplished yet, but in time you will."

The mayor and his administrative team also are an important part of the city's stewardship, Reynolds said.

"I'll miss you guys," DeGraw said to Reynolds, Jagers and Koelker. "You've been a great group of people to work with."

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