On Friday, Moody’s Investors Service revised its rating for Cook County, upgrading its general obligation bond rating outlook to stable, making it the third ratings agency to revise the County’s outlook positively in the last week.
“We welcome Moody’s, Fitch and Standard and Poor’s upgrading the County’s bond rating outlook to stable and their recognition of our work creating financial stability and confronting our legacy liabilities,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a release on Tuesday. “This is an important acknowledgment by these three agencies of Cook County’s willingness to tackle its fiscal challenges and not kick the can down the road.”
In a statement on their ratings upgrade, Fitch said their A+ rating “incorporates the county’s broad revenue raising capacity, limited expenditure flexibility and moderate long-term liabilities.” The agency pointed to recent efforts to make higher pension contributions, aggressive efforts to tamp down on expenditures, and improved operations and self-sufficiency at the Cook County Health and Hospitals System as reasons for the stable rating. The outlook generally cushions against downgrades for two years.
Both S&P and Moody’s, the release said, recognized the County’s efforts to address unfunded pension liabilities, currently hovering around $6.5 billion. Representatives from pension funds, as detailed in the next story, are expected to present commissioners with updates on its audited financial statements and actuarial valuations.