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Thursday, Nov 15, 2018
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Lien placed on Rep. Cruz home

TAMPA - Hillsborough County's property appraiser has placed a lien on a house owned by state Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, to collect more than $32,000 in penalties and unpaid taxes from 2004 to 2008. Fifteen percent interest on that amount also is owed. County officials said Cruz claimed two homestead exemptions during those years, but state law allows only one exemption per family. The disallowed exemption is for a house at 4114 Empedrado St., which Cruz bought in 1983. Cruz married in 2003 and moved to a house on San Miguel Street. Her husband, Steve Rifkin, claims homestead exemption on the San Miguel house. Her son, Raymond Cruz, 29, lives in the Empedrado home, although Cruz pays for it, she said.
Cruz said she might put the property into a trust to make her son eligible to qualify on his own for the exemption. "She brought it forward. She contacted us," said Will Shepherd, attorney for the appraiser's office. It is fairly common for the county appraiser's office to handle such cases, he said, and in many of them, including the one involving Cruz, there appears to be no intentional violation of state law. Cruz was elected state representative for House District 58 in a special election held in February. Questions about her homestead exemption surfaced on local blogs during the often contentious primary and general elections.

Reporter Kathy Steele can be reached at (813) 259-7652.

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