– REBEKAH METZLER

MaineToday Media State House Writer

AUGUSTA – All of the questions apparently have been answered.

Controversy has swirled around Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage and the residency status of his family since it was reported that his wife, Ann, received permanent-resident tax breaks for homes she owned in Maine and Florida in 2009.

Though an initial investigation by Florida tax officials determined that she was ineligible for the dual homestead exemptions, the Florida exemption was deemed legal on Monday.

The exemption, of about $855, was approved because of a provision in Florida law that allows dual exemptions if one of the properties is the permanent residence of a legal dependent of the owner.

Maine has no such “dependent” provision that allows for a dual homestead tax exemption. Ann LePage paid $227.93 in back taxes on Sept. 17 and asked for the homestead exemption to be removed on her home in Waterville.

The LePages both said previously that the house in Ormond Beach, Fla., purchased in December 2008, was for Ann’s mother, who suffers from scleroderma and benefits from being in warmer climates. Paul LePage said he promised his dying father-in-law that he would take care of his wife.

Ann LePage is now a resident of Maine, according to Dan Demeritt, the LePage campaign spokesman. She was a resident of Florida from 2007 to 2010, according to a letter sent Oct. 14 from William A. Lee III, the LePages’ attorney, to Morgan Gilreath, the property appraiser in Volusia County, Fla.

“She is a Maine resident today. She registered (Monday) to vote in Waterville,” Demeritt said. “She had to get down there to take care of her mom in the wintertime.

“The long-term plan of the LePages was to retire to Florida,” he said. “She moved down there; she got a driver’s license and registered to vote.”

Ann LePage was reissued a Maine driver’s license on July 29, according to records in the Maine Secretary of State’s Office.

Two of LePage’s children, Lauren and Paul, are residents of Florida, according to Demeritt. Both went to school at Florida State University.

LePage said previously that Lauren paid out-of-state tuition at the school for about 2½ years and in-state tuition for 1½ years. Paul LePage II is now a senior and has paid in-state tuition.

According to the Florida State website, annual tuition for incoming freshman who are residents of Florida is $15,418; tuition for out-of-state students is $29,862.

Students must prove that they have been a Florida resident for 12 months before their initial enrollment to receive in-state tuition. They can get reclassified by providing additional paperwork after they enroll.

Acceptable paperwork includes a Florida driver’s license or proof of a homestead property tax exemption.

Demeritt said Ann LePage did not obtain Florida residency specifically to help reduce her children’s tuition.

“She was down there anyway, most of the time, taking care of her mother,” he said.

Paul and Ann LePage’s adopted son, Devon Raymond, is from Jamaica, goes to college in Louisiana and is not a U.S. citizen, according to Demeritt.

Paul LePage has two grown daughters from his first marriage; both live in Canada. Demeritt said LePage was divorced from his first wife in 1980.

Demeritt said Ann LePage has a sister in Florida who will help take care of their mother while Ann is in Maine, “but they will maintain the house, and she’ll still spend a significant time in Florida with her mom, even when she’s Maine first lady, assuming we get to that point,” he said.

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

[email protected]