The Westerville City School District has received affirmation that it's in strong financial standing.

Moody's, a leading provider of credit ratings, research, and risk analysis, has upgraded the district's general obligation unlimited tax bond rating to Aa1, the second highest possible ranking.

"This is a significant achievement for our district and community," said Bart Griffith, Westerville treasurer/chief financial officer. "If and when the district would borrow money, the interest rate should be cheaper because of this rating. We earned this upgrade because everyone is working toward the same goal."

On Nov. 8, 2016, voters converted a temporary local tax into a permanent tax, alleviating the district from having to seek renewals in the future.

"Recent voter support of tax increases drove a series of positive operating results ... and we expect the district will maintain its strong financial position," according to a report from Moody's.

The Aa1 rating reflects the district's large tax base in the Columbus metropolitan area, strong socioeconomic profile, healthy financial position and moderate debt burden, according to the report.

Westerville's school system was formerly rated Aa2.

Griffith said the district works with two rating agencies, Moody's and Standard and Poor's.

"Our Standard and Poor's rating was upgraded two years ago," Griffith said. "I think our last discussion with Moody's was in 2012. Since then, our circumstances have improved and Moody's reached out to us and wanted to discuss our rating."

Westerville worked with district financial consultant Dave Conley, president of Rockmill Financial Consulting LLC of Lancaster, to provide a presentation for Moody's to discuss the rating upgrade.

"Moody's upgrade is proof that the district's ongoing efforts to improve its financial condition through prudent management of resident's taxes is working," Conley said. "Continued practices of spending wisely and in managing the district's debt could position Westerville City Schools for yet another upgrade to the highest possible rating of Aaa."

Griffith said he was informed Sept. 13 the district had improved its rating.

He said there are seven other school systems in central Ohio with the same rating – Bexley, Dublin, Hilliard, New Albany, Olentangy, Upper Arlington and Worthington.

"We are one of only 20 schools in Ohio with a Aa1 rating," Griffith said.

There are only four school systems in Ohio with the highest Aaa rating.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla