Nassau County looks to borrow for tax settlement backlog

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Nassau County Executive Laura Curran is pushing a bonding proposal to pay for more than $100 million of taxpayer refunds.

Curran announced last week plans to file a request with the Nassau County Legislature asking for approval of the borrowing for $101.5 million of tax settlements accepted from Dec. 1, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2016. The bonds would cover 18,914 settlements of which 10,275 sit in the Nassau County Assessment Review Commission with 8,639 at the county’s treasurer’s office, according to Curran.

“We need bonding to satisfy those settlements, and we have to do it as soon as possible to move the county away from the past practice of the letting refund settlements just sit in boxes,” said Curran in a statement. “I am asking the Legislature to consider moving forward with bonding to permit these claims and settlements to be satisfied.”

Nassau, which is the New York State’s sixth-most populous county, has debt ratings of A2 from Moody’s Investors Service, A from Fitch Ratings and A-plus from S&P Global Ratings. The large suburban county located just east of New York City has $2.3 billion of outstanding general obligation debt, according to Fitch.

The borrowing measure would need approval from the Republican-majority legislature and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, which has controlled county finances since 2011. Curran, a Democrat, sought state legislation in June that would raise NIFA’s debt ceiling and permit it to issue $400 million of bonds for the tax liabilities. The proposal stalled in Albany after the legislature did not advance a requested home-rule vote.

“We understand the County Executive’s intent and the importance of easing the tax settlement backlog,” Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams, D-Freeport, said in a statement. “One hundred million is an enormous sum to borrow, and we must carefully consider the likelihood of NIFA approval and the impact on the County’s credit rating before acting on this request.”

A $3.5 billion budget proposal Curran pitched on Sept. 18 included funding for $300 million of bonds to cover part of the county’s nearly $1 billion of past due certiorari payments. Nassau finished the 2017 fiscal year with a negative $68.8 million rainy day fund and $122 million deficit.

The press office for the Nassau County legislative Republicans did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Curran’s borrowing proposal.

A spokesperson from NIFA declined to comment on the specifics of the saying, "We will wait to see what actions, if any, the legislature takes on this request. Moreover, we look forward to reviewing a final document at the conclusion of the budget process."

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Budgets County of Nassau, NY Nassau County Interim Finance Authority New York