EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

December 4, 2013

Bond rating upgrade will save money

Rating raised to highest level in city history

HAVERHILL — A key Wall Street financial agency has raised Haverhill's bond rating by two notches to its highest level in history, an upgrade the mayor said will save the city $400,000 in future interest payments on the proposed new school in Bradford and potentially millions more on other loans.

Mayor James Fiorentini said the city has not yet calculated how much might be saved on the city's largest borrowing obligations, such as the bonds it takes out annually to pay debt on the formerly city-owned Hale Hospital or to cap the old city landfill.

The potential $400,000 savings on a new city school is based on the city's $23 million share of a $60 million project. The state is expected to pay the larger amount.

"We're going to refinance anything we can at our new lower rate," Fiorentini said. "We don't know for sure yet what we can refinance and exactly what the savings will be, but it's going to be substantial."

A city's bond rating is similar to a credit rating for an individual. A higher bond rating means it will be less expensive to borrow money.

The mayor said the upgrade was the result of a detailed financial presentation and tour that city officials gave to representatives of the Standard & Poor's bond rating agency last month. He said the agency called him Tuesday morning and told him it was increasing the city's rating from A-plus to AA — a rare two-level increase.

Fiorentini said this is the fourth time since he took office in 2004 that Standard & Poor's has raised the city's bond rating. Ten years ago, he said, Haverhill had a bond rating of BBB, which at that time was the worst bond rating of any city in Massachusetts.

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