By Joan Gralla
(Reuters) - New York's Nassau County said on Wednesday it would appeal a court order to pay about $41 million of tax refunds, which could postpone reimbursements to property owners.
State Supreme Court Judge Thomas Adams had given the county 60 days to comply with his June 1 judgment directing Nassau to pay the tax refunds - or risk having its bank accounts seized.
A flawed property tax system put the county on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars of refunds, a liability it dealt with by selling $1 billion of bonds from 2002 to 2010.
Unless Nassau works out a last-minute compromise with property owners, the appeal will be likely granted and the repayment process will be frozen again.
Laureen Harris, an attorney who represents property owners who are owed millions of dollars in refunds, estimated it could take about two years for the appeals court to reach a decision.
To pressure Nassau, on the western half of Long Island, she plans to ask the court to raise the interest rate the county owes on the refunds to 9 percent, from 2 percent to 3 percent currently.
Nassau is a commuting suburb of Manhattan, with a median income of $93,613. It has been struggling to fix its finances since 2000, when the state created a control board to ward off a bankruptcy.
County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, has been unable to persuade the Democratic minority in the county legislature to approve more borrowing for the tax refunds.
Asked about the notice of appeal filed by the county attorney, a Mangano spokesman said the county still might devise a plan to repay property owners. "All we did was file a notice of appeal so as to preserve the county's rights while we continue to work to get the taxpayers their refunds."
Any relief will come too late for at least one of Harris' clients. Joseph Curcio, who is losing a Hicksville office building to foreclosure, is waiting for a $72,000 tax refund.