S&P upgrades Wayne Co. financial outlook to positive

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Credit-rating agency Standard & Poor’s has given Wayne County some positive news.

The company released a report Thursday noting it upgraded Wayne County’s financial outlook from “negative” to “positive,” bypassing its intermediary “stable” designation.

Its report cited “significant” cost savings, the reduction in long-term liabilities and an “improved view of management” for the outlook for Michigan’s most populous county.

It also said: “If the county remains on course with its recovery plan and executes the structural changes, thereby fully returning to and maintaining structural balance, we may consider raising the rating.”

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans welcomed the news.

“Our commitment to carry out the recovery plan has put Wayne County on the path to financial stability,” Evans said in a statement. “We still have a long road to travel before we reach our final destination, but this Standard and Poor’s outlook is proof that we’re headed in the right direction.”

In March, Evans noted the county, facing critical fiscal issues including an underfunded pension system and a drop in revenues from lower property values as it struggled to avoid an emergency manager and bankruptcy, “has stabilized, it continues to improve.”

He said the county has reduced its health care liabilities, slashing costs from $1.3 billion to $471 million.

When Evans took office, the county faced a $52 million annual deficit stemming from an underfunded pension system and a $100 million drop in property tax revenues since 2008. In addition, the county was pulling about $20 million from its general fund each year to bolster its pension system.

cramirez@detroitnews.com

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