Better report card: Allegheny County has better news on its finances

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Just like schoolchildren all over the region, Allegheny County got a new report card on Friday, and it conveyed news that was mostly good.

The credit agency Moody’s Investors Service rewarded the county for setting aside more money in its fund balance, the equivalent of a family’s long-term savings account. Moody’s upgraded its outlook on the county’s creditworthiness to stable. That’s an improvement over the negative outlook Moody’s previously gave, and the decision mirrors ones issued by Standard & Poor’s in August and January.

The county earned the improved status by bumping up its fund balance from $5.7 million at the beginning of 2012 to $27.6 million by the end of 2013. The recommended amount, though, is $40 million, so there’s plenty of room for improvement. Moody’s maintained the county’s A1 rating on existing debt, considered an upper-medium grade, another good mark that could be better.

Fortunately for County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, the rating agencies only offer opinions on financial matters. Otherwise, they might have given Mr. Fitzgerald a poor mark for attitude. In announcing the stable outlook, Mr. Fitzgerald thanked 10 members of county council, slighting five others because he said they are “obstructionist.”

That was petty, just the sort of behavior that would draw glares from a parent reading a report card.

Only one thing is more disappointing than parental disapproval, and that’s homework, which county Controller Chelsa Wagner assigned in her Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, issued Tuesday. She said the county must add more to the fund balance, address long-term debt of $859 million and boost its underfunded pension plans.

Sounds like summer school is starting.

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