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Levy rates up, but tax bills stable

April 22, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County and Martinsburg are raising levy rates about 3 percent, but overall taxes will decrease for county residents because there are more taxpayers moving into the area.

The Berkeley County Commission and Martinsburg City Council approved the levy rates for the 1998-99 fiscal year on Tuesday.

With the county's new levy rate, a home assessed at $54,000 in a rural area will be taxed an additional $2.05 by the county. But the amount for the Berkeley County Board of Education's bond payments will decrease by $3.89 for the same homeowner. That homeowner will actually pay $1.83 less in taxes.

James Welton, assistant superintendent for Berkeley County schools, said the Board of Education pays a set rate each year for the two bonds. As more people and industry move into the area, those payments are drawn from more taxpayers.

Despite a double increase for city residents - who must pay both city and county taxes - their average tax bill will increase only $1.51.

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"What we've done was difficult, but it was not a dramatic change in the tax ticket," said Commission President James C. Smith. "I think the people in Berkeley County get a good bang for their buck."

County Administrator Deborah Sheetenhelm said the levy is expected to raise about $300,000 more for the county in the next fiscal year.

"The commission has worked hard to bring new industry into the county. (If) we have more industry in the area, it's less of a tax burden" to residents, Sheetenhelm said.

The commissioners said they received some criticism because many people thought county taxes as a whole were increasing by 3 percent.

"When you increase people's taxes, they don't like it," said Commissioner D. Wayne Dunham. "But people didn't understand their taxes aren't increasing 3 percent. The levy is."

The money raised by the levy - which will be paid mostly by commercial property owners - will help offset hikes in per diem rates at the Eastern Regional Jail.

"We got behind on jail bills and we didn't have any choice," Dunham said.

Berkeley County's 1997-98 levy rate for Class I property - stocks, bonds, farm equipment and other tangible personal property - was 11.4 cents per $100. The new rate is 11.6 cents.

For Class II properties - homes or farms - the rate is 23.2 cents per $100. Class III business properties will be taxed 46.4 cents per $100.

In Martinsburg, Class I properties will be 8.44 cents per $100. Class II properties will be 16.88 cents per $100 and Class IV properties will be 33.76 cents per $100.

The levy increase will bring in about $60,000 more to the city, said Martinsburg City Manager Mark Baldwin.

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