GILROY, Calif. (KTVU) - The Santa Clara County Assessor personally delivered a refund check Thursday to a Gilroy family that had been accidentally overpaying their property taxes for 13 years.
The check is one of many that will be sent out in the coming weeks.
"I'm very pleased to bring you a check for nearly $28, 000," announced assessor Larry Stone. He added, "You know when government makes a mistake, we have an obligation to fix it, to make it right."
It was a mistake Erin Cerdan uncovered.
Thanks to Cerdan’s digging and persistence, the assessor’s office soon realized she wasn't alone.
There were 216 families in Gilroy, living in below market rate housing, that weren't getting the tax breaks they deserved. Some of the residents had been overpaying for 20 years.
"With the mortgage going up, I thought we might lose our home, the home we built. And so I just kept at it, contacting people and getting the word out that we needed help," says Cerdan.
The assessor’s office took quick action and will now refund the total amount plus interest - about $3 million dollars between the 216 families.
"It's a big blessing to come right on time on Christmas Eve. And we owe it all to Erin for being the voice of our neighborhood," says neighbor Yvette Salcedo.
The Cerdan's refund will allow husband Gabriel to quit his second maintenance job, and for Erin to pay off some medical bills.
"I can't wait to cut up my credit cards. Well I'm going to keep one, (because) nowadays you have to have a credit card. But I definitely want to be able to be out of debt," Erin Cerdan says.
Cerdan says she doesn't blame anyone for the mistake, she's just glad it's getting fixed now.
"You know I have a feeling that there's a time for everything. And this just happened to be the right time," she says.
Most of the neighbors will receive their checks by mail over the next few weeks.