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Flaggs wants to see city restore its bond rating

VICKSBURG — Mayor George Flaggs Jr. has said several times since taking office he wanted to get Vicksburg’s bond rating restored in January.

He now says city officials may wait a bit longer.

“Even though I think we’re ready, I’m told that you do not want to apply unless you are ready to borrow money,” he said. “You don’t want to spend $1,000 getting a rating when you have no interest in borrowing.”

Flaggs said he wants to look at restructuring the city’s debt before moving to restore the bond rating. He also wants to wait until a committee on capital improvements presents its priority list. Flaggs earlier this month had department heads prepare recommendations for capital improvements in the city

The Vicksburg Post reports that Moody’s Investors Services pulled the city’s A-1 rating in February. In doing so, Moody’s cited insufficient financial information on the city’s creditworthiness because Vicksburg did not have completed audits for 2008, 2009 and 2010.

State and local governments borrow money through bonds for public works projects and to refinance loans. A city’s bond rating gives investors an idea of the city’s ability to pay off the bonds. Without a bond rating, governments are unable to borrow money.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen this past week received the results of 2012 audit. It was the fourth audit performed by accountant Booker T. Camper Jr. in the past two years. Camper was hired by the city to bring the backlog of audits going back to 2009 current and in compliance with state law.

He completed the 2009 and 2010 audits in 2012 and the 2011 and 2012 audits this year. He and city Accounting Director Doug Whittington said the 2013 audit is expected by the end of April.

“We are now in compliance with the audits,” Whittington said. “This is great for the city. We have, I think, missed out on a couple of grant opportunities because of this noncompliance on audits. That is over with.

“We are free and clear to apply for any and all grants,” he said. “Also, it’s very important to mention (that) with this audit compliance, we are set and ready. Whenever the board chooses, we’re ready to get that bond rating,” he said.

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