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Standard and Poor's raises JEA's credit rating to AAA Highest Rating Possible
Jacksonville, FL - Standard & Poor's Ratings Services raised its credit rating two notches to 'AAA' on JEA's water and sewer system senior-lien debt. Standard & Poor’s also raised its rating on JEA’s subordinate-lien debt to ‘AA+’ from ‘AA’. “Triple A” is the highest rating than any agency can get, and it is the first time that JEA has received that rating.
Higher credit ratings mean lower borrowing cost – and ultimately lower overall costs – for JEA’s customers. JEA has more than $1.6 billion in debt in the water and sewer system, and this credit rating change will help keep JEA’s borrowing costs low for all of its customers. Ratings are assigned on the basis of extensive analysis by the rating agency, considering factors like financial strength, economic diversity, management capability, and operating experience.
The rating comes on the heels of the interagency agreement that was signed two weeks ago by the City of Jacksonville and JEA. It is the first rating change JEA has received since the Mayor, the Chairman of the JEA Board, and JEA’s leadership team provided the credit rating agencies with an annual update in December.
“This is outstanding news for JEA, the City of Jacksonville, and our citizens,” said Mayor Lenny Curry. “This level of ratings’ increase clearly demonstrates that leadership really does make a difference. I could not be more proud of the visionary work of our JEA board. Having achieved a similar rating upgrade earlier this year, the City of Jacksonville and JEA are continuing to work collaboratively to make a difference in our city.” In late February, Standard and Poor’s Rating Services upgraded the rating on the City of Jacksonville’s sales tax revenue bonds to an “A+.” Up from an “A” the previous year, bond ratings are an indicator of credit quality and strength of the underlying revenue stream. The improved rating means lower borrowing costs for the City on future debt issues.
“I am proud to be a part of JEA at such a crucial time,” said Tom Petway, Chairman of the JEA Board. “The rating reflects the strength of JEA’s entire operation, from the leadership team to the men and women in the field providing high-quality service to our customers and community. This rating change lowers our debt costs, which lowers our costs for everyone. This is all about providing reliable and affordable water and sewer service to the community we serve.”
The raised ratings reflect a combination of Standard & Poor’s release and application of its revised criteria, and JEA's very strong financial performance trend as shown by its maintaining stronger all-in debt service coverage (DSC) and available liquidity levels. In issuing its rating, Standard & Poor’s stated that “we believe the authority will continue to maintain very strong all-in DSC and its very strong available liquidity position.”
The rating reflects S&P’s opinion of the combination of the system's extremely strong enterprise risk and financial risk profiles. The rating also reflects its opinion of the water and sewer system’s:
- Steadily growing and diverse customer base with adequate income levels;
- Strong local service area economy, which anchors the broad and diverse Jacksonville metropolitan statistical area (MSA);
- Competitive utility rates providing additional financial flexibility; and
- Very strong financial management policies and practices as shown by its proactive long-term planning and robust enterprise risk management program.