City of Camden’s bond rating upgraded to A-

Standard & Poor’s upgrade gives city its highest rating in four decades.

File photo EDA incentive programs have certain exceptions for projects in Camden.

In a move that strengthens the belief that the city is on the rise, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services on Tuesday upgraded the city of Camden’s bond rating to A-, the highest rating the city has received in four decades.

Standard & Poor’s described the city’s outlook as “stable,” but noted a “strong incentive” for Camden to maintain a financial reliance on state government.

Camden Mayor Vic Carstarphen was thrilled by the upgrade.

“Today is a historic day,” he said. “This is another positive outcome, and it shows a renewed confidence in Camden.

“I pledge to continue building on this progress and ensure Camden’s financial health is sound in the future.”

Carstarphen said it’s the result of a concerted effort at the city, state and federal level.

“We wouldn’t be at this point without the unyielding support of Congressman Donald Norcross and Gov. Phil Murphy,” he said. “I want to personally acknowledge their commitment to the city and the residents.”

Bond ratings are significant, as the grade is an indicator of credit quality — or the creditworthiness of corporate or government bonds. This particular grade is significant for two reasons:

  • It’s an increase, so it indicates there is a belief that Camden is continuing to improve;
  • It moves the city into the “A” category, the highest level of which is AAA.

For many years, Camden operated on a “junk” bond status, which crippled the opportunity for capital expenditures in city infrastructure, schools, parks, public works, public safety and other needs.

In 2014 the city’s rating improved to BBB+, and a “positive” outlook in 2019, which resulted in the area’s positive economic growth.

State Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Camden) said the rating is a sign of success for the city.

“The city of Camden is being transformed into a model 21st-century city, and investors are noticing,” she said. “We are all encouraged by the unprecedented growth and improvements in crime, education and renewed commitment to improving the quality of life throughout the city’s neighborhoods.”

Camden Councilman Angel Fuentes agreed.

“For decades, our residents, our business community, our school district, our nonprofits, our stakeholders and our community leaders have worked tirelessly to transform Camden,” he said. “We are now realizing new opportunities as a result and witnessing meaningful change under Mayor Carstarphen.

“This A- bond rating upgrade is yet another big step in the right direction for our city.”

Standard & Poor’s report viewed Camden favorably.

“The one-notch rating change reflects our view of Camden’s improved financial position in recent years, including a substantially stronger reserve position,” it read.

“The city’s improved financial performance and flexibility coincides with economic investment into the city, which according to management has totaled more than $2.5 billion since 2013, with another $518 million either in construction or planned through 2023.”

Among positive factors, S&P noted “improved financial performance and reserve levels in recent years,” as well as a “strong institutional framework.”

Kris Kolluri, CEO of Camden Community Partnership, said the upgrade is a win for all.

“Today’s rating increase by S&P validates our collective commitment to continue building on a strong financial foundation,” he said. “Those of who contributed to and witnessed Camden’s progress over the last decade never wavered or doubted the trajectory of this great city.

“The residents of Camden are the ultimate beneficiaries of the today’s rating upgrade. We will continue to be driven by progress, while focused on equity.”