WILMINGTON, MA — At Monday’s Selectmen Meeting, Assistant Town Manager Kendra Amaral announced that Wilmington has maintained a AA+ bonding rating from the Standard & Poors rating agency.
“Retaining the second highest rating available confirms the work we have done to fund financially sustainable operations is the right course,” wrote Town Manager Jeff Hull in a memo to Selectmen.
While that is great news, town administration had aggressively been pursuing a rating upgrade to AAA – the highest attainable rating – as it began the process of securing interim financing in the amount of $5.45 million for the purchase of a fire pumper and the construction of the Yentile Farm Recreational Area.
Standard & Poors cited the town’s OPEB (“Other Post-Employment Benefits”) and pension liabilities as reasons to prevent the upgrade. The fact that Wilmington’s median income and poverty wealth is below the median values for other AAA rated Massachusetts communities also hurt its case.
Wilmington is getting closer to the elusive AAA status as it continues to make progress in funding the aforementioned liabilities. Hull noted that Wilmington has reduced its OPEB liability from $137 million to $118 million over its last three bonding ratng reviews. Hull also pointed out that in the last three years alone, $1.25 million has been set aside in the town’s pension stabilization fund.
“There’s so much to be impressed with and proud of in terms of Wilmington’s financial situation, which was built up over a number of years under the former Town Manager and now current Town Manager,” added Amaral. “The economics are in our favor, but we still need to overcome those liabilities.”
Amaral placed the agency’s decision in context, explaining that while a AAA bonding rating would have lowered the town’s debt costs, the difference between a AAA and AA+ is”not so significant that it will be hugely impactful.”
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