Scandal-torn Bell City overcharges residents on property tax

14:48, August 14, 2010      

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The United States' Bell City, torn by a salary scandal, overcharged residents on property tax for years, California Controller's Office announced on Friday.

The overcharged property tax amounted to about three million dollars over the past three years, State Controller John Chiang said.

He said property tax should be lowered and refunds should be given.

"While my investigation into the city of Bell continues, these unlawful taxes must stop immediately," Chiang said. "Homeowners and property owners should not pay the price for this poor fiscal management."

Chiang sent a letter to Los Angeles County officials instructing them to reduce the Bell property tax rate, noting that the city has been improperly raising the rate since 2007 to cover the pension obligations.

According to Chiang, state law caps the property tax rate for pension obligations at the rate used in fiscal year 1983-84. But residents of Bell saw their property tax obligation increase from about 0.19 percent in 2007 to about 0.28 percent this year.

Chiang said lowering the tax rate would save residents about 250 dollars a year on a property worth 275,000.

Bell reportedly had the second-highest property tax rate in Los Angeles County, with a rate of 1.55 percent -- above the county average of 1.16 percent.

Located in suburban Los Angeles and with a population of less than 40,000, Bell City found itself in the national spotlight when the Los Angeles Times reported last month that some top city officials were making exorbitant salaries. City Manager Robert Rizzo was being paid an annual salary of 787,637; Police Chief Randy Adams, 457,000; and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia, 376,000.

Additionally, the mayor and three of the city's four council members were being paid 97,000 for their part-time jobs.

Rizzo, Adams and Spaccia have since resigned. The mayor and council members agreed to reduce their salaries, but refused to heed their outraged constituents' calls to step down.

The California Attorney General's Office and Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office are jointly investigating the salary scandal.

Source: Xinhua


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