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Bucks maintains AAA credit rating, but outlook revised to 'negative'

Moody's Investor Services this week issued a "negative" outlook for Bucks County's debt, although the county maintained its AAA bond rating, which is the highest possible.

The credit rating agency revised its outlook because the county's reserves have shrunk in the last five years, from about $68 million to about $44 million while its debt and obligations stand at about $387 million.

"The negative outlook reflects multiple years of reserve declines that have weakened the county's financial position," Moody's reported.

Brian Hessenthaler, the county's chief operating officer, said reserve levels fell during the recession, a time when homebuilding and home sales plummeted, dragging down tax revenue. He added that the reserves serve as a "rainy day fund" and helped prevent all but one small tax increase in the last few years. He added that the county's reserve will continue to increase.

Bucks County is among about 400 local governments out of about 8,500 that has the top AAA rating, according to Moody's.