Updated: October 1, 2022
Fitch Global Ratings, Moody’s Investor Service and S&P Global Ratings each assigned “stable outlook” ratings to Maui County’s General Obligation Bonds, Series 2022.
Maui County plans to issue approximately $60.56 million of these bonds to finance capital improvement projects, according to a County news release.
They include a variety of public works projects, water and wastewater projects, park improvements, upgrades to public safety facilities, and needed infrastructure to support customer service by County departments, according to a spreadsheet of county projects (as of July 31, 2022).
Fitch Global Ratings and S&P each rated Maui County AA+. S&P said its rating of the county reflected high confidence in “well-embedded financial management policies and practices … supportive of very strong credit quality.”
Moody’s Aa1 rating was credited to “the county’s stable profile anchored by conservative budgeting assumptions that will keep reserves and liquidity levels sufficient for the rating level.”
Fitch Global Ratings said in its assessment of the county that the security of these bonds are payable from an unlimited property tax levied on all taxable property within the county’s jurisdiction.
According to Fitch Global Ratings: “The tax base growth [of Maui County] is strong. Taxable assessed valuation (TAV) in fiscal 2021 was $54.8 billion, which had grown 69% since the most recent TAV decline in fiscal 2013. However, for fiscal 2022, TAV dipped by over 1% to $54.1 billion due to lower hotel and resort valuations, partially offset by increases in short-term rental valuations. Nevertheless, ongoing construction and the opening of new developments support expectations for strong TAV growth over the short-to-medium term. The fiscal 2023 TAV is $58.7 billion, a nearly 8% yoy [year over year] increase.”
Scott Teruya, Maui County’s Director of Finance, said that Moody’s “recognized the overall strength of Maui’s creditworthiness. I believe if we continue to overfund our Other Post-Employment Benefits and increase our emergency fund reserves, there is real potential for a future upgrade to the highest AAA rating.”
Mayor Michael Victorino said the ratings “demonstrate the strength of our post-pandemic recovery, and successful efforts to diversify our economy moving forward. They also affirm the outstanding work of our employees in the Department of Finance, Budget Office and Department of Management. It requires excellent leadership to navigate back from the worst public health and economic crisis of our lifetime.”
In its credit overview, S&P recognized the rebound in Maui County’s hospitality sector, but also highlighted diversification in the County’s economic base. It identified employment growth in agriculture, film, television and video projects as key complements to the leisure and hospitality sector.