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Nassau deal to borrow $61M for tax refunds breaks down

A deal to borrow $61.2 million for outstanding tax refunds fell apart Monday after Nassau legislative Democrats accused Republicans of backing away from a promise to pay residential homeowners before commercial businesses.

Currently, the county pays tax refunds on a first-come, first-serve basis. The process often allows business owners who have more cash on hand to file early and get paid first while homeowners can wait months for their checks, officials said.

In exchange for authorizing the bonding — which requires 13 votes — minority Democrats asked County Executive Edward Mangano to guarantee that homeowners would receive their refunds first.

But a deal with Mangano, reached late last week, came undone at Monday’s legislative meeting when Democrats insisted the guarantee be included in the bond authorization.

Administration officials say they plan to pay homeowners first but that including such language in the bond authorization could cause delays in issuing refunds to businesses.

Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said Democrats have agreed to the bonding multiple times but were “attaching strings to the legislation in an effort to slow it down.”

Minority Leader Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) dismissed the Republicans’ concerns and said the GOP was “refusing to bring to the floor a bill that puts residents first.”

The borrowing would have provided $10.5 million in refunds for homeowners who successfully challenged their assessments and $49.5 million for business owners. The remaining $1.2 million would cover the cost to administer the bonds.

Nassau also included $10 million in its 2016 operating budget to pay residential and commercial tax refunds. Those funds have already been spent, said Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin.

The Legislature and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state monitoring board in control of the county’s finances, approved $60 million in tax refund borrowing last year. Mangano is expected to ask for another $60 million in 2017 before implementing an overhaul of the commercial tax assessment system in 2018.

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