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L.A. County supervisors seek legislation to permit refunds for Bell taxpayers

August 17, 2010 |  2:04 pm

Reacting to the Bell city salary scandal, Los Angeles County supervisors on Tuesday said they were seeking state legislation to return $2.9 million in property tax overcharges to Bell property owners.

Bell city officials illegally raised its property taxes in 2007, imposing a "retirement tax" to cover rising pension costs for its employees, state controller John Chiang found last week. But Chiang said Bell residents wouldn't be getting a tax refund because state law says such tax overpayments must instead go to schools in the city of Bell.

The supervisors' motion on Tuesday, which seeks to fix that problem, orders county officials to lobby lawmakers in Sacramento to permit a refund to Bell property taxpayers.

The revelation of the illegal retirement tax last week appeared to confirm longstanding complaints from Bell property owners that they were being overtaxed. The Times reported last month that Bell officials collected huge paychecks, that the city had cut police and other services, and that its property owners were paying higher tax rates than all but one city in Los Angeles County.

The owner of a home in Bell, a working class city of 39,000 southeast of Los Angeles, with an assessed value of $400,000 will save about $360 a year because of the cut, an official with the Los Angeles County auditor-controller's office said last week.

-- Rong-Gong Lin II reporting from the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration