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HOWARD COUNTY (MD.) $176 MILLION GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS RATED 'AAA' BY FITCH -- FITCH FINANCIAL WIRE --

 NEW YORK, March 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Howard County, Maryland's $130.2 million Consolidated Public Improvement Project and Refunding Bonds, 1993 Series A and $46.3 million Metropolitan District Project and Refunding Bonds, 1993 Series A are rated `AAA' by Fitch. The rating reflects the county's high wealth indicators, strong planning and financial management, and affordable debt levels. The credit trend is stable.
 The county's long-term economic prospects remain strong because of its central location in the Baltimore-Washington corridor and strong efforts to sustain a high quality of life through effective planning and growth management. Growth and development have been rapid in the last two decades, fostered, in part, by the Rouse Co.'s planned community, Columbia. The county has the highest median household income in the state, and is now second wealthiest in terms of per capita income. The services provided to its residents are diverse and of designed high quality. The general plan for future county development exemplifies superior planning as Howard is one of the leading counties in meeting state planning requirements. The recession slowed growth in the county. However, the unemployment rate remains well below state and national averages. The county's 4.7 percent unemployment rate in November 1992 was up slightly from 4.3 percent the prior year. Building permits are rising, commercial vacancy rates, while still high, are down, and several industrial and commercial projects are underway or planned that should increase employment in the county.
 Financial performance tightened with the economic slowdown. However, strong corrective actions were taken and financial pressures now appear to be easing as the economy begins to improve. Financial results for fiscal 1991-1992 were better than the prior two years, with the unreserved fund balance at about 2 percent of revenues. The 1992-1993 budget was enacted without a tax increase, but with reductions in several areas. The assumptions on the economically sensitive revenues were conservative. Tax growth is running higher than budget and a modest general fund operating surplus is projected this year. State aid cuts to the county have been managed through expenditure actions and the stronger-than-budgeted revenue performance.
 While debt levels have increased slightly they remain easily manageable in relation to resources. The county's current six-year capital plan calls for significant issuance. However, strong debt management, high wealth levels, above average amortization, and anticipated continued tax base growth partly mitigate the large borrowing program. A 10-year capital plan is being developed. The county's general plan lends predictability to the capital planning process.
 -0- 3/17/93
 /CONTACT: Stewart Simon, 212-908-0508, or Richard Raphael, 212-908-0506, both of Fitch/


CO: Howard County, Maryland ST: Maryland IN: SU: RTG

CK -- NY037 -- 6991 03/17/93 11:19 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Mar 17, 1993
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