September 24, 2010

Florida county tells Ann LePage to pay $1,400

The wife of gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage claimed permanent-home tax breaks there and in Maine.

By Rebekah Metzler rmetzler@mainetoday.com
MaineToday Media State House Writer

Ann LePage, wife of Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage, has been ordered to pay $1,400 in back property taxes and penalties in Florida for improperly receiving a permanent-resident tax exemption on her home there.

click image to enlarge

This property at 558 Woodgrove St. in Ormond Beach, Fla., was purchased by Ann LePage, wife of Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul Le Page, in December 2008.

Audrey Parente/The Daytona Beach News Journal

Morgan Gilreath, the property appraiser in Volusia County, Fla., informed Ann LePage of his decision in a letter issued Thursday. She now has 30 days to contest his finding or pay the amount due.

On Sept. 10, MaineToday Media publications, including The Portland Press Herald, reported that Ann LePage, who owns homes in Waterville and Ormond Beach, Fla., received homestead property-tax exemptions in 2009 on both homes, in violation of Maine and Florida tax laws.

Paul LePage formerly co-owned his wife's home at 438 Main St. in Waterville, and he co-signed with his wife on the mortgage taken in 2008 to buy the home in Florida.

In an e-mail Thursday, Paul LePage acknowledged that his wife had received the notice from Gilreath.

"I would personally like to thank Mr. Gilreath for his letter and for his due diligence on behalf of the taxpayers of his county," Paul LePage said. "As I have stated, Ann was made aware of this paperwork error based on an apparent conflict between a document from 12 years ago and last year. This letter, a formality, will allow Ann to discuss this in detail with Mr. Gilreath and fully resolve this matter that resulted from the home purchased to care for her ailing mother over the last two years."

Gilreath's letter yielded evidence that Paul LePage, by co-signing the mortgage in Florida, certified that it was bought as a second home.

On Dec. 19, 2008, Paul and Ann LePage signed a $180,000 mortgage for the property at 558 Woodgrove St. in Ormond Beach, according to Gilreath.

The mortgage filed with Volusia County included a "second home rider" -- a separate document, bearing the signatures of the LePages, that certifies the "Borrower shall occupy, and shall only use, the property as borrower's second home."

On Jan. 20, 2009, Ann LePage filed for Florida's homestead tax exemption for the home on Woodgrove Street, certifying that it was her permanent residence as of Dec. 19, 2008, the day she signed the "second home" rider.

The application for Florida's homestead exemption asks several questions about where the applicant lived for the previous year and the address on the applicant's last income tax return, according to Gilreath's letter.

"(Ann) LePage listed 801 Fourth Street, Bunnell, Flagler County, Fla., in all those instances," Gilreath wrote. "She did not mention anywhere on the form that she was, at the time of filing in Florida, also claiming to be a resident of Maine and receiving a Maine homestead exemption. Reference to the state of Maine or property owned there was conspicuously absent on her Florida homestead exemption application."

Gilreath's letter also says Ann LePage registered to vote in Bunnell on Nov. 26, 2007, and received a Florida driver's license the same day with the Bunnell address. "Florida voting records indicate that she voted in the November 2008 general election in Flagler County," he said.

Ann LePage's Maine driver's license was reissued on July 29 of this year, according to state records.

Gilreath concluded that Ann LePage received a Maine homestead exemption -- worth about $200 a year -- from 2007 to 2010 while holding a Florida driver's license and claiming to be a Florida resident.

Two of the LePages' children have lived in Florida and attended Florida State University.

Their daughter Lauren, who graduated from Florida State, paid two years of out-of-state tuition and one year of in-state tuition, Paul LePage told the Bangor Daily News. Their son, Paul, now a senior at Florida State, pays in-state tuition.

Tuition at the university for Florida residents is $15,418 a year; tuition is $29,862 for non-Florida residents, according to the university.

To receive in-state tuition, new students must prove Florida residency for 12 months before enrollment. Students can be reclassified from out-of-state to in-state by providing paperwork proving residency, such as a driver's license or proof of a homestead property-tax exemption, if they are a dependent of a Florida property owner.

Ann LePage bought a property in Flagler County, north of Volusia County, on July 17 of this year, according to property tax records. She paid $4,600 for a 1987 mobile home on a lot at 2283 Blueberry St. in Bunnell. She did not seek a homestead exemption on that property, but on the deed she listed her address as 558 Woodgrove St., Ormond Beach, Fla.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

rmetzler@centralmaine.com

 

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