“It acts as a rainy day fund,” Bettencourt said.
Moody’s report adds that the city will have a budget surplus for the third straight year. Further, Peabody has moved its employees to the state health insurance plan, which is seen as a “positive” likely to contribute to the city’s economic health.
“The top taxpayer,” Moody’s said, “the Malls at Northshore LLC, remains stable with 99 percent occupancy rate and remains a longtime taxpayer for the city.”
The median family income of $76,000 is about average for the state, but above average nationally. Unemployment at 6.8 percent is better than the state average.
On the other hand, Moody’s cites some economic challenges, including “state aid reductions” and “substantial long-term pension” and benefits owed to past employees. In addition, they point to deficits at the city skating rink — although those are blamed on one-time problems such as equipment failures.
The city currently services $45 million in debts, according to the report.
Challenges notwithstanding, Moody’s reports, “The city’s financial position is expected to remain stable in the near term ... due to management’s commitment to conservative budget practices.”