September 24, 2010

Ann LePage ordered to pay back taxes

Florida official informs wife of GOP nominee

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

Ann LePage, the wife of Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Paul LePage, has been ordered to repay $1,400 in back property taxes and penalties in Florida after improperly receiving a permanent-resident tax credit on her home there.

click image to enlarge

This property at 558 Woodgrove St. in Ormond Beach, Fla., was purchased by Ann LePage in December 2008. (Photo by Audrey Parente, The Daytona Beach News Journal.)

Audrey Parente, The Daytona Beach News Journal

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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, according to Gilreath’s letter.

On Sept. 10, it was revealed Ann LePage — who owns homes in Waterville and Ormond Beach, Fla. — received homestead property tax credits in 2009 on both of them, a violation of Maine and Florida tax laws.

Paul LePage, the mayor of Waterville, formerly co-owned his wife’s home at 438 Main St. in Waterville, and co-signed with his wife the mortgage executed in 2008 to purchase the home in Florida.

In a statement e-mailed by his campaign Thursday, Paul LePage acknowledged 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,” said Paul LePage. “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.”

The Florida investigation was initiated after the Kennebec Journal reported the tax exemptions Sept. 10.

Gilreath’s letter also yielded evidence Paul LePage, by co-signing the Florida mortgage, certified it was bought as a second home. On Dec. 19, 2008, Paul and Ann LePage signed a $180,000 mortgage for the Florida property 558 Woodgrove St., Ormond Beach, according to Gilreath.

The mortgage filed with Volusia County included what’s called 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.”

Then, on Jan. 20, 2009, Ann LePage filed for the Florida homestead tax exemption for Woodgrove Street, certifying it was her permanent residence also of Dec. 19, 2008, the same day she signed the “second home” rider.

To receive the Florida homestead exemption, the application asks several questions about where the applicant resided 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 states Ann LePage registered to vote in Bunnell on Nov. 26, 2007, and received a Florida license the same day with the Bunnell address.

“Florida voting records indicate that she voted in the November 2008 general election in Flagler County,” Gilreath said.

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

Gilreath’s investigation concluded Ann LePage received a Maine homestead exemption — worth about $200 annually — 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.

Daughter Lauren, who graduated Florida State, paid 2 1/2 years out-of-state tuition and 1 1/2 years in-state tuition, Paul LePage told the Bangor Daily News. His son, Paul, currently a Florida State senior, pays in-state tuition.

Tuition at the university for Florida residents is $15,418; 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 prior to enrollment.

Students can also 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 also purchased a property in Flagler County, north of Volusia, 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, Fla. 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.

Rebekah Metzler — 620-7016

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