Williston Officials React to Downgraded Credit Score | VideoEvan Kruegel | 2/28/2013
"It`s not something you`d like to have happen, because the lower the grade you have, the more you pay on interest. Fortunately, interest rates are really reasonable right now, so it doesn`t have that great of an impact there. But it`s not unexpected, we have been telling the state all along, `Guys, we are at the epicenter, we`re bearing the brunt of all this. We have to put in this infrastructure and try to react to this, and we don`t have the money to do it,’” said Williston Mayor Ward Koeser.
City leaders say the downgrade issued by Standard and Poor`s, is due to a disagreement between the financial service company and the Williston City Commission.
"The bond covenants tells us we have to have x amount of dollars in a reserve, and they want x amount of coverage with whatever bond payments you have,” said City Auditor John Kautzman.
Williston has a long history of paying off its debt in full and on time. After the oil boom in the 80s, city residents were forced to pay off more than $30 million in oil-impacted debt through increased property taxes. City leaders want to make sure that doesn`t happen again.
"We`ve been telling the state for the last few years that we need help. We will bear the brunt of this, we`ll take the people who come here and we`ll provide them a place to live and a job in the community, but you need to help us. You can`t just simply take all this money and keep it in Bismarck, you have to come back here to help,” said Koeser.
Kautzman says he doesn’t believe the downgrade will affect the city`s ability to receive credit. "I don`t believe our bond company would be talking to us if they felt that the downgrade wasn`t allowing us to market additional bonds."
City leaders say they will continue to pay their debt on time, no matter how much interest they have to pay. The focus from their perspective will remain the same: to make sure the burden of this oil boom doesn`t fall on local residents.