GOOD FINANCIAL NEWS: Wilmington Retains AA+ Bond Rating

WILMINGTON, MA — At this week’s Board of Selectmen Meeting, Town Manager Jeff Hull announced some very good financial news — Wilmington has retained its AA+ bond rating from Standard and Poor’s, the second highest rating possible.

In their evaluation, Standard and Poor’s praised Wilmington for: (1) strong management with good financial policies and practices; (2) strong budgetary performance with operating surpluses; (3) strong budget flexibility with sizable reserves; and (4) strong liquidity.

The town’s OPEB (post-employment benefits) and pension liabilities were identified as areas of concern, preventing Wilmington from attaining the rare AAA status.

“We are very close to being AAA,” said Hull.  “We just need to fortify our situation on OPEB and pensions.”

Discussing the OPEB liability, Hull noted that Standard and Poor’s recognized the town for continuing to put money aside to fund the liability. In Wilmington’s latest evaluation, its OPEB liability totaled $133, which was down from $137 million from the evaluation before. Wilmington just voted to put another $1 million toward the liability at May’s Town Meeting.

“We’re going in the right direction,” said Hull, in reference to paying down the town’s OPEB liability. The town is looking at ways of reducing the liability by, for example, revisiting the health care plan designs it currently offers.

Discussing the pension liability, Hull noted that all members of the Middlesex Retirement System, of which Wilmington is a member, are obligated to have their pensions fully funded by 2035. Wilmington currently has 44% of its liability funded, which is “middle of the pack” when compared to the other communities in the same retirement system.

“These are issues we’ll need to address,” said Hull, who is strongly considering accelerating the town’s payment schedule  by paying an amount in excess of the monthly assessment.

“Overall, I’m very pleased,” said Town Accountant Michael Morris.  “When Jeff and I got here [in 1987], Wilmington had a Single A bond rating… I’m pretty satisfied.”

Selectmen praised Hull, Morris and former Town Manager Mike Caira for their budgeting prowess, fiscal conservatism and smart planning.

“We definitely have had strong financial stability in this town for many years,” said Selectman Mike McCoy. “That’s the word that comes to mind — stability.”

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