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Bell residents to get $3M refund on taxes

September 12, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado will be in Bell on Monday to sign an emergency bill to refund residents who were charged excessive and illegal property taxes.

Maldonado, who is serving as acting governor while Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is out of the country, is scheduled to sign the Bell tax relief bill Monday morning.

The new bill will return nearly $3 million in tax overcharges to the owners of 4,000 properties.

According to state officials, Bell leaders illegally raised property taxes in 2007 to cover rising pension costs for city employees. It's also been reported that taxes helped pay some of the excessive salaries for city employees.

Local activists said it's the first step in many to get the city back on track.

"It makes me relieved," said John Grey of Bell. "I'm glad to hear that people up in Sacramento are paying attention and they've listened to us."

Community members are seeking to recall four City Council members who were allegedly involved in the city's questionable and illegal activities.

"This is something concrete for the community," said Christina Garcia of the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse. "We're excited to have the lieutenant governor here tomorrow. I think the community is excited to see some progress and some steps in the right direction."

While the investigations continue, state lawmakers and the governor are taking steps to rectify the abuses.

It's still unclear when residents will receive the refunds or how the process will go into effect, but the law requires that the city return the total property tax overcharges to the Los Angeles County tax collector by the end of 2010.

"I'm pleased, I'm satisfied," said Bell resident Jesus Arreola. "At least we'll get something back."

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