Sound Off: Property taxes threaten seniors

By Ann Wilson

As I reluctantly send off payment for my exorbitant assessment and consequent tax increase, I must wonder how many other modest income, home and land owners in Coupeville realize that we are becoming an endangered species.

Apparently like many others, I had been lulled into a false sense of security by what I understood to be a 1-percent lid on property tax raises. Everywhere I have lived before, the tax was based on what I paid for my property (and subsequent small annual increments) and not what a new resident was now willing to pay for a nearby piece of property. Imagine my surprise at finding that my assessed value has jumped $61,366 (and my tax bill increased $805.20) in one year.

To make things even more interesting, when I visited the Assessor’s Office and received a print-out of my property document, I discovered:

1. The physical address shown was incorrect;

2. The parcel dimensions were incorrect (80x81) and failed to show the portion deeded to the town of Coupeville apparently in the 1940s for Triangle Park (now Cook’s Corner);

3. The dimensions of the building are incorrect by over 400 square feet. As the portion of the building added in 1980 had to adhere to the Triangle Park landline, all the rooms are irregularly angled to accommodate the property line restrictions. County records show a rectangular building;

4. The date of the building construction according to county records was 1980. I have unsubstantiated evidence, however, that the rear portion of the building was completed in 1947. The county simply does not have any records other than the 1980 addition, nor does the town of Coupeville.

During my first visit, I asked what basis had been used for the reassessment and was told a nearby smaller piece of land had recently sold for almost $80,000. I was also told that my property being in the historic limited commercial district was a factor.

I spent numerous hours researching all the property in the historic limited commercial district and found great disparities in my assessment and other “business” locations. I returned to the Assessor’s Office and requested a listing of those properties used as a basis for my assessment, in accordance with the Washington State Tax Appeal documents, and I was handed a print-out of every property sold in Coupeville between 2002 and the present date. At further request, I was provided with all of the limited commercial district sales.

Neither document shed any light on how my tax was calculated. I also asked about recent newspaper letters which indicated that properties were being assessed based on their January 1, value, but was told that any sale through June could be used to calculate taxes. The almost $80,000 property actually sold on Oct. 11, 2004, for $79,625.

I am a handicapped senior citizen who settled here with the assumption that I would never have to move again. I, and I imagine others, will obviously be forced to leave our if our properties appreciate in value in accordance with the current Assessor’s policy of basing assessment on what others are now willing to spend to move to this desirable community.

Ann Wilson lives in Coupeville.

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