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Taxation without verification causing a mess for homeowners in West Buechel

Published: Sep. 17, 2019 at 7:54 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - West Buechel isn't exactly sprawling. Only 1,200 residents. A $2.5 million budget. It's a fifth-class city with a first-class problem for hundreds of residents when they opened their mail recently and received notices from the city of West Buechel that say "We have found property tax records that state you have not paid your property taxes."

One of those is bad enough, especially when you claim you have, in fact, paid your property taxes.

“Then I got nine more letters that they sent out that said taxes due,” West Buechel resident Bill Hill said, adding that the $400 in back property taxes the city says he owes comes to $4,000 with the penalties that were assessed, too. “It’s got everybody shook up around the neighborhood.”

“Everybody I’ve talked to around here has gotten a letter,” West Buechel resident Tony Sherrard said.

But that’s not the biggest problem.

“I went over there with the letter and explained that I have an escrow and mortgage and they pay it every year and she said I have to have proof,” Sherrard said.

“I said we have no records to go back that far,” Hill said. “How you gonna prove it if you got no check stubs? Can’t go back. So don’t know what we’re gonna do.”

Dave Philpot was notified he owed property taxes for 2013 and 2010. He’s a certified public accountant who said he’s always paid. He produced payment proof for 2013, but when he tried to get proof from 2010, his bank wrote it has a “retention period of six years for cancelled checks, therefore we are unable to provide a copy of a cancelled check dating back to 2010.”

He said when he asked if the city would pay the cost of digging up the records, he was told that’s on him.

“I know it’s overwhelming and it’s emotional,” City Clerk Treasurer Debbie Batliner said. Batliner added that West Buechel is currently under state and federal investigations, and she was brought in to try to clean up the messes we uncovered in previous reports on previous administrations.

“This is the best route that we felt we could take to clear up these open documents,” Batliner said. “We’re not gonna get rich off this. We’re just trying to clean it up.”

WAVE 3 News asked her about residents who said they’re having trouble proving they paid their property taxes because this goes back 10 years.

“It’s the homeowners’ responsibility to keep records,” Batliner said.

WAVE 3 News asked why the bills are for 10 times the original amounts owed in many cases.

“Each year it accumulates more,” Batliner said. “Penalties and interest. But we’ll probably come up with some type of payment plan. We’re not there yet.”

A few blocks away from city hall, a woman I talked to who was too sick to go on camera or prove she paid because she has lung cancer said she just gave in and paid her bill again.

“What is the deal with this city?” WAVE 3 News asked Sherrard.

“You got me,” he said. “You tell me. You guys investigate more on this city than anybody. It’s getting to be a joke.”

Batliner said so far West Buechel has collected about $8,000 in back property taxes. She said she’s meeting individually with people having trouble proving they’ve already paid.

Copyright 2019 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.