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For their own good
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Town 'N Country family plays host to the governor
The tax-strapped Town 'N Country family had written the governor pleading for help.
By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER
Published June 22, 2007
Gov. Charlie Crist greets Alejandro Garcia, 10, and his mother, Maria de Lourdes Bello-Garcia outside their Town 'N Country home, where Crist signed the property tax legislation recently passed in special legislative session.
[Chris Zuppa | Times]
TAMPA -- The property tax bill ruined her family's Christmas, so Maria de Lourdes Bello-Garcia wrote to the governor asking for help.
Thursday, Gov. Charlie Crist and local lawmakers showed up at her modest Town 'N Country home, trailed by reporters and camera crews and several curious neighbors.
"What a great neighborhood!" Crist beamed. "Thanks for having me over. Let's go drop property taxes. Por favor."
Crist visited Bello-Garcia, her husband, Jose Garcia Ledon, and their two young boys as part of a statewide tour meant to demonstrate how the property tax reform legislation he signed Thursday affects Florida families.
Bello-Garcia, 38, and Garcia Ledon, 44, bought the three-bedroom concrete block home in May 2005 for $160,000. They used an adjustable rate mortgage that has them paying about $1, 200 in monthly payments, Garcia Ledon said.
She works in the Macy's human resources department; he drives trucks delivering milk. Together they make about $60,000 a year.
"It is tight, especially with two little kids," Bello-Garcia said.
So all last year, they saved up for the property tax bill, anticipating it would be about the same as their first year in the home: $1,122, according to the property appraiser's office.
But the assessed value of the 1973 home, last purchased in 1996 for $72,000, shot up after Bello-Garcia and Ledon Garcia settled in. So their bill was more than double what they had saved for.
"It was a horrible holiday," Bello-Garcia said. She wrote to the governor in December, telling him she feared the family could no longer afford to live in Florida.
"Don't leave," Crist told her Thursday.
With the tax rollback lawmakers and the governor approved, she and her husband will save about $200 in property taxes.
And if voters approve the Save Our Homes constitutional amendment on the Jan. 29 ballot, they could save another $1,800 on their annual tax bill.
Crist, sitting at a table set up on the family's front lawn, signed a copy of the legislation as Alejandro, the couple's 10-year-old son, stood at Crist's, side. Crist turned to Bello-Garcia, smiled and said, "The government shouldn't take so much of your money."