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News Briefs: Green energy program to generate savings; GB retains AAA bond rating

Participating residents and businesses will see an average savings of 8.48 percent in their monthly energy bills during the contract term as compared with the basic service rate.

Green energy program to generate savings for GB residents and businesses

Great Barrington — Great Barrington residents and business owners will collectively save nearly $300,000 over the next year thanks to the newly created Great Barrington Community Choice Power Supply program.

The program is a municipal aggregation program, which, according to Massachusetts law (M.G.L. c. 164, § 134), enables local government to combine the purchasing power of its residents and businesses so that it can provide them with an alternative electricity supply. The program provides price stability, local control and competition while also lowering the burden of energy costs for Great Barrington’s residents and business community.

The town of Great Barrington has announced that it has entered into a one-year agreement with NextEra Energy Services of Houston, Texas. The town will be using 100 percent green energy derived from National Wind renewable energy certificates.

Participating residents and businesses will see an average savings of 8.48 percent in their monthly energy bills during the contract term as compared with the basic service rate. The program will provide a combined average savings of more than $24,000 per month for the town’s homes and businesses over the contract term. The cost savings for Great Barrington residents and businesses will begin with the November 2017 meter reads (December 2017 billings). Colonial Power Group Inc. in Marlborough was chosen by Great Barrington to design, implement and administer the program on behalf of the town.

This program only affects the supply portion of a customer’s monthly bill. National Grid will continue to deliver electricity but NextEra Energy Services will be the supplier for the program.

No action is required by ratepayers to participate in the program. The program will be operated on an opt-out basis, meaning that all Great Barrington residential and business customers currently on National Grid’s basic service will be automatically enrolled into the program unless they choose to opt out. Customers may opt-out of the program at any time with no penalty charges.

The town and will hold an informational session Monday, Oct. 23, at 5:30 p.m. at Town Hall, 334 Main St., to explain the program.

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Great Barrington retains AAA bond rating

Great Barrington — Town manager Jennifer Tabakin has announced that Great Barrington has retained its AAA bond rating for another year.

Great Barrington is one of only two towns in Berkshire County to earn a AAA rating from Standard and Poor’s Global Ratings and was the first in the county to achieve that distinction when it was upgraded from its existing AA+ rating in 2016.

In its analysis of the town, S&P said Great Barrington’s rating comes as a result of strong performances in several key areas. The town’s strong economy, solid financial policies and practices, and positive budgetary performance–including operating surpluses in its general fund and at the total governmental fund level–all contributed to it retaining S&P’s best possible bond rating.

The highest bond rating a city or town can receive, AAA indicates a bond issuer’s financial strength to pay the principal and interest in a timely fashion. S&P Global Ratings issues the rating only when it feels a creditor’s capacity to meet its financial commitment on its obligations is extremely strong.

Great Barrington is rated higher than the federal government due to S&P’s belief that the town is capable of maintaining better credit characteristics than the U.S. in a stress scenario based on its primarily locally derived revenue base, and the rater’s view that pledged revenue supporting debt service on the bonds is at limited risk of negative intervention.

S&P cited strong performance by Great Barrington in several credit worthiness areas, including:

  • Economy: The town has a projected per capita effective buying income of 120 percent of the national level and per capita market value of $211,897. Overall, the town’s market value grew by 2.9 percent over the past year to $1.4 billion in 2017.
  • Management: The town has very strong management, with strong financial policies and practices, operating surpluses of 1.6 percent of expenditures in the general fund and 2.3 percent across all governmental funds in fiscal 2016.
  • Budgetary Flexibility: Over the past three years, the total available fund balance has remained consistent. In addition, the town has the flexibility to raise additional revenues despite statewide tax caps, which S&P views as a positive credit factor.
  • Strong Liquidity: The town has total government-available cash at 60.6 percent of total governmental fund expenditures and over 10 times governmental debt service in 2016. In S&P’s view, the town has strong access to external liquidity if necessary.
  • Very Strong Debt and Contingent Liability Profile: Total governmental fund debt service is 5.9 percent of total governmental fund expenditures and approximately 71.3 percent of the direct debt is scheduled to be repaid within 10 years.

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