Despite its longstanding reputation as a bastion of wealth, Westchester County’s credit rating was recently downgraded by the Big 3 credit-rating agencies. Having enjoyed an uninterrupted AAA rating for many years, S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings each dropped the county’s credit rating to AA+, while Moody’s Investors reduced the county to an Aa1. Fitch, however, remains optimistic, stating that the fiscal outlook for the county was “stable,” based on a combination of low long-term liability, one-time expenditures, and budget-gap-closing measures already in place. County Executive George Latimer has said the downgrades were hardly a surprise but that he vows to return the county to its traditional AAA rating during his tenure.
The question is: What does this mean for the local business community?
Not too much, according to Prof. Robert Jantzen, PhD, who teaches economics at Iona College in New Rochelle. “I don’t think [the county’s lower rating] will affect the economy in 2019 at all,” he says. “It’s still a very high rating…. We have lower rates of default on auto loans, mortgages — even student-loan default rates are falling.
“Our housing market is kind of wobbly, especially in the single-family market,” Jantzen adds, “but overall, things have been looking very positive for people who live in Westchester…. Employment is up; unemployment is very low; the labor markets are really tight; and wages are growing.”