N.Y.’s Suffolk County accidentally defaults on debt

A Suffolk County sign is seen along the road entering Cold Spring Harbor

As if Suffolk County, home of the Hamptons and playground of the rich and famous on New York’s Long Island, didn’t have enough financial problems already.

A regulatory filing on behalf of the county dated April 16 shows it accidentally missed an interest payment on some of its debt, including $76.1 million of public improvement bonds, putting the county technically in default. Oops.

The county is wealthy with income per capita well above the national average but it has run into difficulty recently, declaring a fiscal emergency last year after an independent task force predicted a three-year deficit of $530 million.

The county could have a budget shortfall of as much as $250 million by the end of next year, local officials said last month.

The error is more of an embarrassing glitch than anything else. The missed payment — just $722.65 — would be small change for many of the county’s residents.

That will buy you fewer than 20 butter-poached lobster rolls (not the most expensive thing on the menu) at Dave’s Grill in Montauk, a quaint fishing village on the island’s northern tip, or just 10 bottles of Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc Russian River 2009 at La Plage in Wading River. A mere picnic.

The mistake was pointed out by the Depository Trust Company, a clearing firm, the day after it was missed and the filing says the error was the fault of the county’s escrow agent, M&T Bank.

“The county informed M&T of its error and the escrow agent immediately wired the $722.65 payment to DTC,” the regulatory filing said.

So what went wrong? The county was making the first payment in a complicated arrangement that uses $17 million in state HEAL grants for medical costs, primarily related to the Foley Nursing home, said Richard Tortora, president of Capital Markets Advisors, the county’s financial adviser.

The $722.65, part of a debt payment of more than $1 million, was the portion of the payment from the HEAL grants. The $17 million is being held in an escrow account at M&T.

“M&T for reasons we can’t fathom just blew it: ‘Oops it wasn’t in our system, we missed it,’” said Tortora, president of Capital Markets Advisors. Tortora said missing the payment and having to make a regulatory filing with the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board was frustrating after months spent putting the arrangement together for the county.

M&T Bank was not immediately available for comment.

Fitch Ratings, the credit ratings agency, downgraded Suffolk County’s general obligation bond rating to A from A-plus last month, affecting about $1.4 billion of debt. General obligation bonds have the full faith and credit of the issuer and are the best gauge of how risky investors think the county is.

Fitch said it had concerns about the county’s ability to become financially stable, let alone reduce its big deficit.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

NFL

Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…

NHL

Rangers' speed versus Flyers' size makes interesting playoff…

Among the myriad aspects that will make this Metropolitan Division semifinal series fascinating will be the battle between the Rangers' speed and the Flyers' size,…

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.