Dec 28 Rockland County, rated the lowest of all
counties in New York state by Moody's Investors Service, sold $5
million of general obligation bonds this week in a bid to
improve its cash flow.
The proceeds will be used to pay tax settlements to
taxpayers who challenged their assessments. About $3.5 million
of the proceeds will go to Pfizer, a big county
taxpayer, Stephen DeGroat, Rockland's finance and budget
commissioner, said on Friday.
The county is repaying Pfizer what will amount to about $15
million to $20 million over five years, DeGroat said.
This is the second year of the Pfizer settlement. The county
is also likely to sell about $5 million of the bonds annually
for the next three years as it continues to pay this and other
tax settlements, DeGroat said.
"This really helps us in a cash flow sense," he said of the
Other New York counties have also sold tax-exempt bonds to
pay for tax refunds after taxpayers successfully argued that
they were assessed incorrectly.
Nassau, another affluent but fiscally challenged New York
City suburban county on Long Island, has sold such bonds worth
hundreds of millions of dollars over the past decade.
Moody's rates Rockland lower than all other New York
counties at Baa3 -- one notch above speculative -- with a
In June, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services downgraded the
county's long-term credit rating two notches to BBB-minus with a
negative outlook on concerns about weakening finances and the
county's use of its reserves.
The county, just north of the New Jersey state line
northwest of New York City, is a wealthy one, with more than
315,000 residents and a median household income of about
Like other local governments, Rockland has had to cut
expenses and raise revenues because of the recession.
It had been facing a 50 percent property tax hike next year
to pay for $33 million in state mandated costs, including $16.7
million in increased pension payments, County Executive C. Scott
Vanderhoef has said.
Instead, the county will trim spending in fiscal 2013, which
begins Jan. 1, and will hike property taxes by 18.4 percent.
The county ranks sixth in the United States for high
property taxes, which consume nearly 7.9 percent of household
income in Rockland, according to a report by the New York state
comptroller. The national average is just under 2.9 percent.
The county's bonds were offered in serial maturities from
2014 through 2022 with a top yield of 3.33 percent with a 5
percent coupon for bonds due in 2022, according to a draft of
the final official statement.