Property tax refunds for Bell property taxpayers on hold
The city of Bell must first provide funds for the refunds
BELL - The Los Angeles County Auditor-Controller said today that Bell residents would not get property tax refunds because of overpayments until Bell sends the county $2.9 million, which it is not required to do before Dec. 31.
Wendy Watanabe, the county's auditor-controller, said she wanted to address news media reports "suggesting that Los Angeles County could start issuing refunds 'within the week.'"
Watanabe's office has already gotten calls from Bell property taxpayers asking for refunds.
All property taxes get handed up to the county.
"The city of Bell must first provide funds to us before we can initiate any refunds,'' said Watanabe.
"No refunds will be processed until then.''
The State Controller's office determined in August that about 4,000 Bell residents had been illegally overcharged on their property tax bills for the last three years. City officials raised the tax rate in 2007 to cover pension obligations, but those charges were in excess of legal limits.
Bell had been paying the second highest property tax rates in the county, higher than in Beverly Hills, although it's one of the poorest communities in the county, where 17 percent of the residents live in poverty.
State Controller John Chiang estimated that taxpayers would save about about $250 per year on a $275,000 home once tax rates were reduced.
Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado signed Senate Bill 900 yesterday, which made the refunds possible. Taxpayers should expect to receive interest on the amounts, according to Maldonado.
The illegal tax rate is just one of several scandals uncovered following a Los Angeles Times report that the city manager, police chief and assistant city manager were being paid exorbitant salaries, well in excess of those paid for comparable positions in the City of Los Angeles or New York. The manager for the city of fewer than 40,000 residents was making $1.5 million a year in salary and benefits. The mayor and three of four city council members were making nearly $100,000 for part-time jobs.
Resignations followed, but the revelations about self-dealing at the expense of residents have continued, drawing national attention.
BELL - The state attorney general's office today sued eight former and current Bell city officials, accusing them of fraud, civil conspiracy and waste of public funds in an effort to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars in unwarranted salaries.
Attorney General Jerry Brown's lawsuit, which names ex-City Manager Robert Rizzo and three current council members, also calls for the reduction of pension benefits for the officials.
As he promised State Controller John Chiang is delaying a number of state payments in February including personal, bank and corporate tax refunds, student grants and social services.
These payments, which are being held for 30 days, are typically not made directly to recipients but are sent to the various state and federal government agencies that administer the programs.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—Five former Bell city officials were convicted today of misappropriating public funds by accepting exorbitant salaries while representing the small municipality, but jurors acquitted them of some charges and exonerated one former councilman altogether.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—A judge today refused to order the city of Bell to reimburse its embattled former city manager for his legal costs in defending himself from civil and criminal allegations that he conspired to defraud the municipality out of millions of dollars.
Robert Rizzo is defending himself in a civil case by his former employer and a felony complaint filed by the District Attorney’s Office. He wanted a declaration from Judge Ralph Dau that the city should indemnify him for the money he has spent to hire legal counsel.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—Leaving the fireworks to the professionals this July Fourth is a safer alternative than setting off pyrotechnics yourself.
That’s the message from safety officials to residents of Los Angeles County cities that allow the personal use of fireworks.
All fireworks are illegal for personal use within the city of Los Angeles, said Brian Humphrey of the Los Angeles Fire Department.