Fort Dodge financial practices earn high marks

City has maintained its high rating for nearly a decade

When the Fort Dodge City Council turned to the bond market Monday to borrow about $11.2 million to pay for various projects and purchases, a sometimes bewildering amount of numbers was discussed.

As the various facts, figures and percentages were reviewed, it would have been easy to overlook a very important combination of two letters and a number.

That combination was Aa3. It means good things for the local government.

When investment houses are trying to decide if they want to buy municipal bonds, they seek information on the financial practices of the community. To get that information, they often turn to Moody’s Investors Service, which issues a kind of report card on the finances of communities.

Moody’s Investors Service gave Fort Dodge a grade of Aa3. That’s a very high mark. In fact, last year Jon Burmeister, managing director of Public Financial Management in Des Moines, told the City Council that it would be hard for a community the size of Fort Dodge to get a better rating.

Fort Dodge earned the Aa3 grade in 2010, and has maintained it ever since, even as other cities across the nation saw their ratings downgraded.

In a May 9 statement on the city’s rating, Moody’s Investors Service wrote that it ”reflects the city’s stable tax base and status as a regional economic center in north central Iowa and healthy operating reserves.”

The Aa3 rating may not seem to mean much to the Fort Dodge citizens. But it means that their city government is able to borrow money at favorable interest rates to do necesessary projects while keeping the property tax rate stable.

The fact that Fort Dodge earned such a fine rating is a tribute to the steady financial management practices of City Manager David Fierke and Jeff Nemmers, the city clerk and finance director. It’s also a tribute to the elected officials who have to make tough decisions on city finances.

Implementing sound financial policies isn’t glamorous work, But it’s necessary, and we’re pleased that Fort Dodge leaders have done it in a way that earns high marks from a national organization.

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