The city of Bell charged higher property taxes to its residents than allowed by state law, State Controller John Chiang notified Los Angeles County on Friday.

The overcharges were discovered during the initial phase of the Controller’s audit into Bell’s finances and revealed that property owners in Bell paid an estimated $3 million in extra taxes during the past three years, according to a press release from the Controller’s office.

“While my investigation into the city of Bell continues, these unlawful taxes must stop immediately,” said Chiang in the release. “Homeowners and property owners should not pay the price for this poor fiscal management.”

Information from the release:

“The Controller’s letter (copy here) explains that Bell’s City Council began raising property tax rates in 2007 to pay for pension obligations, even though State law caps those taxes at the rate used in fiscal year 1983-84. Property taxpayers saw their assessments for pension obligations rise from .187554% in 2007 to .277554% in 2010.

“The letter instructs the County to reduce the property tax rates as quickly as possible. The lower rates would deliver, for example, an estimated $250 in annual savings on a property worth $275,000.”