Rockland County Finance Commissioner Stephen DeGroat gave a presentation overviewing the operations of the Finance and Budget & Management departments Tuesday night at the Rockland County Legislature Budget & Finance Committee meeting.
DeGroat went over various reviews of the departments, what they’ve done recently and hope to do moving forward. He also spoke about the county’s financial standing, including the county’s recent note sale, which he called “very, very successful.” He said rating agencies require the county to pay off a note before issuing new notes, so usually the county pays off the note one day and the next day issues new notes.
“We paid off our notes actually early, we paid them off a day early, on the fifth of March and we’re not closing on our new notes until the 14th of March, so we moved the note payment to give us a little bit more time,” he said. “We were able to get state aid in on the various tax monies so we were able to make a little cushion there.”
DeGroat said their bond sold at a 1.5 percent interest rate and they had 12 bidders vying for the bond, whereas in the past they usually have three or four. DeGroat said they also had some “major players” in on the bidding for the first time and had bids of almost $400 million on their paper.
“That was part of the rating agencies concerns, was to stay in the market,” he said. “We can demonstrate to them that not only have we stayed in the market, but we’ve three-folded the people that are bidding on the paper.”
DeGroat said he’s hopeful this can help the county’s bond rating, which last year Moody’s Investor’s Service downgraded to Baa3 with a negative outlook. In his presentation, DeGroat included a letter from Rob Weber, a Moody's analyst, who he said the county will meet with in April.
“He had four items he wanted done,” DeGroat said. “He wanted improvements in our financial statements, which is done. He wanted continued access to the markets, which has improved. That’s done. He wanted to see something done with the nursing home, which we’re discussing. And he wanted to see whether we get the deficit financing bonds, which we presented again to do. I’m hoping and keep my fingers crossed that I’d like to see him remove the negative credit watch on our April review.”
DeGroat also talked about the success the county had in getting money owed to it from the state. He said the state owes Rockland about $15 to 16 million, which he said is the lowest that figure has been in around a decade. DeGroat said the way they did this was by continually hounding state officials with phone calls.
He also spoke about how things have gone when merging departments or moving people around a bit. One example he used is that three management people are working in New City while the employees under them are elsewhere. He said it’s worked for a variety of reasons, and that they spoke to all employees about it and they were understanding and willing to try something new. On his end, DeGroat said it’s worked out well because if he or someone in his office has a question about something, they can just ask one of the managers instead of trying to hunt someone down on the phone.