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Pinellas homeowner ends up the loser after local government mistake on property taxes

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This Preservation land is at heart of homeowner tax dispute in Pinellas This Preservation land is at heart of homeowner tax dispute in Pinellas
This Preservation land is at heart of homeowner tax dispute in Pinellas This Preservation land is at heart of homeowner tax dispute in Pinellas
PINELLAS COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Melanie and Jeffrey Cornwell should have been getting a property tax break for years on the homestead property on Brady Dr. in Dunedin they call their "little piece of Heaven."

But due to a missed filing deadline by the Pinellas Property Appraiser's Office, they won't see a $1,081 refund on their 2012 property taxes, just a break on future tax bills.

"It's tough because we could really use that money,"said Cornwell. "I have been unemployed 18 months, I have medical issues and a thousand dollars would pay for a one month's mortgage payment."

"I really regret this has happened,"said Pinellas Property Appraiser Pam Dubov."We have a lot of parcels we're responsible for and I wish we did everything perfectly, but we don't."

It all has to do with some land adjacent to Curlew Creek designated in the 70's as a "preservation area" on the Cornwells' homestead property. That designation escaped everyone's notice until Cornwell started researching the possibility of building a stable on her land.

What should have been a windfall on taxes possibly stretching back four years, soon became tangled in red tape and a bureaucratic mess involving the Appraiser's Office, Pinellas Tax Collector and Florida Department of Revenue.

Dubov appealed Cornwell's case to the Department of Revenue which rejected her request for a refund.

"If it had been left just up to me I would have said 'she asked on time that's good enough for me," said Dubov. "But I wasn't the one who got to decide."

Dubov told Eight On Your Side she plans to work for legislative reform that will allow taxpayers to receive refunds in similar situations when they are the victims of government goof ups. The Pinellas Tax Collector's Office insists it would also endorse that kind of reform.

But none of that helps Cornwell recover the  taxes she overpaid in years past for her "little piece of Heaven."

Copyright 2014 WFLA.  All rights reserved.

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