Published February 8, 2016
TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA — The Cherokee Nation continues to show strong financial performance, maintaining its bond rating of “BBB” in 2016, according to Fitch Ratings Inc., one of the top three global rating agencies.
The tribe’s bond rating was first upgraded from a “BBB-” to “BBB” in 2014 for its solid financial operations, and Fitch affirmed its good credit rating in 2015 and again in 2016.
“The Cherokee Nation’s continued strong rating is third-party proof of our responsible fiscal management,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “I commend our financial resources staff for its performance, especially during a year when we pursued so many different and diverse expansion projects.”
Each year the Cherokee Nation is required to have an independent rating analyst review its financial statements, spending trends, debt and future outlook after the tribe issued tax exempt bonds in 2006 to construct Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee, Nowata Health Center and Redbird Smith Health Center annex in Sallisaw.
“The affirmation of our bond rating speaks to the financial strength of the Cherokee Nation. It means that our present is stable and our future is full of opportunities,” said Cherokee Nation Treasurer Lacey Horn. “I would like to thank my colleagues at Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses for their perpetual commitment to integrity and sound financial oversight.”
Fitch issues bond ratings that range from the highest AAA to lowest D.
In a statement, Fitch said the Cherokee Nation’s rating was affirmed based on several key drivers, including strong gaming performance, stable and essential health care operations, and strong financial operations.
“The (Cherokee) Nation continued to achieve strong financial performance across governmental and enterprise operations,” the Fitch statement said. “CNB’s solid operating performance has supported internal financing of capital projects for gaming, health care and government initiatives while preserving strong liquidity at the government level.”
Currently, the Cherokee Nation maintains a comprehensive budget of $774 million. About 69 percent of the tribe’s budget comes from federal sources.