Moody’s Investors Service this week issued its top Aaa credit rating to Evanston Township High School District 202.

This is an upgrade for ETHS, which for years has carried an Aa1 rating, just one step below the Aaa rating.

ETHS is now among only seven Illinois school districts and one of 24 total in the nation to be awarded this rating.

In a report, Moody’s said, “The highest-quality Aaa rating reflects the district’s affluent suburban base located north of Chicago; historically solid financial operations evidenced by sound reserves and prudent management policies; and an above-average debt burden expected to remain manageable over the near term.”

“We believe the district will continue to experience long-term growth in its property tax base due to considerable downtown redevelopment projects underway, the economic stability provided by the presence of Northwestern University, and the district’s location on Chicago’s North Shore,” the report continued.

ETHS Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said, “Moody’s has scrutinized our financial management and requested volumes of financial information from us. Based on their careful analysis, they have rated ETHS District 202 among the elite school districts in the nation in financial management.”

Moody’s analysts recently visited the high school and were provided a complete overview of the District’s finances and the newly implemented capital improvements program (CIP) to update the school’s buildings and grounds. The District explained its CIP strategies that included reduction of operating costs wherever possible and emphasizing energy and water conservation in newly proposed capital projects.

ETHS Chief Financial Officer William Stafford provided the rating firm with key information on the favorable economic development that has occurred in Evanston over the last several years and the financial vibrancy of downtown Evanston’s TIF districts. They were also provided with the District’s financial strategy to prudently use new TIF funds that will become available in the next several years.

Stafford said, “The discussions with Moody’s extensively focused on Board-approved financial policies such as providing for balanced operating fund budgets and maintaining adequate cash balances to assure financial stability in good times and in bad. Moody’s clearly understood the School Board’s commitment to financial stability and budget discipline.”

Stafford said the upgraded rating will save taxpayers money as the district sells bonds over the next five years to finance projects in its capital improvement plan by lowering the interest rate it will have to pay.

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