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NIFA approves use of Goldman Sachs if Nassau needs to restructure debt

The board of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority on Tuesday night approved the use of Goldman Sachs should they have to restructure Nassau's debt or borrow more money for the county.

The move is a sign the cash-strapped county might need help in borrowing as officials project a more than $384 million deficit in its $3.5 billion budget for 2020, mainly due to the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. 

NIFA, a public benefit corporation created by state legislation in June 2000, has certain powers under which it monitors and oversees Nassau's finances. NIFA has the power to issue bonds and notes for various county purposes, including the restructuring of a portion of the Nassau's outstanding debt.

The vote was 5-0, with one abstention, Paul Annunziato. 

Goldman Sachs was selected from a list of three Wall Street firms that included Bank of America and Ramirez & Co.

NIFA general counsel Jeremy Wise said Goldman Sachs had the "expertise and familiarity" with the structure of the NIFA debt, which is more than $400 million on behalf of the county, which is set to be paid off in 2025.

The initial borrowing was $3 billion in 2000.

"NIFA's selection of underwriters is another important step on the path to sustained economic recovery and will help the county regain financial losses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Michael Fricchione, spokesman for County Executive Laura Curran.

Curran, a Democrat who took office in 2018, had made getting away from the control of NIFA a priority. However, with the issuance of additional borrowing, NIFA's presence in overseeing the county's finances could continue until 2051, officials said. 

As part of the state budget, legislators expanded NIFA's power in Nassau County, including the authority to bypass state rules to allow for easier and lower interest borrowing, officials said.

NIFA needs a request from Curran and the approval of the Republican-controlled county legislature to borrow on behalf of Nassau County.

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