Wahl Road homeowner charged $6,000 in taxation error

Above: Bill Goetz expresses his dismay with Island County over a tax assessment that was charged to him

A South Whidbey homeowner is taking the county to task for mischarging him $6,125 in property taxes.

“I expect an apology and my money back with interest,” said retired teacher William Goetz.

The taxes are owed by the previous owner of Goetz’ Freeland-area property, but it appears the negative balance has remained with the property, according to Island County Treasurer Wanda Grone.

Oddly, Goetz said, the balance never surfaced when he purchased his house in 2011 or when he refinanced in 2013.

Grone, who won the November election against Ana Maria Nuñez, took office Jan. 1. Grone said that while she inherited the mistake, she is working with Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks to see how they can fix it.

Banks confirmed via email Thursday that he is “aware of the claim in my office and we are researching the facts and the law. We want to help everyone resolve it according to what state law requires as quickly as possible.”

Grone said that according to her understanding of the statute, if the previous owner is unable to pay the bill, it follows the new owner.

Goetz is one of five or so homeowners in the same situation as a result of the backlog of tax supplements that were brought up to date late last year, according to Grone.

A bill was mailed to the previous owner but was returned, and Grone opined that Goetz’ title company did a routine check on tax records and saw the outstanding bill.

So, according to Grone, the error lies at the feet of Goetz’ title company, which extracted the amount automatically from his account. 

What happens now, Grone said, is “between him and his title company.”

Goetz disagreed, saying the county made two mistakes, first by not accurately updating his property’s record and second by allowing this to happen to multiple people.

Goetz said he could be the “poster child” for how taxation can go horribly wrong.

“For crying out loud, how bad can it get?” Goetz said.

Dissatisfied with the answer he got from the treasurer’s office, Goetz reached out to Commissioner Helen Price Johnson who said she was as “astounded as he was that it happened.”

Price Johnson has little power to help, however, as the treasurer is an independently elected official and doesn’t answer to the board of commissioners.

“I would encourage her to move as quickly as possible to find a solution,” Price Johnson said.

The problem is unique and is not something most people should be concerned with, said Price Johnson, but measures should be taken so that it doesn’t occur again.