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Martinsburg tax hikes proposed

April 20, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Garbage collection fees and some business and occupation tax rates could be going up in the City of Martinsburg.

The Martinsburg City Council is considering a plan that would generate $925,000 in yearly revenue by increasing the city's garbage fees and bringing Martinsburg's so-called "B and O" taxes more in line with other West Virginia municipalities, according to the city's budget and finance committee.

"No tax is a good tax, but a municipality has to have revenues to raise funds to be a progressive city," said City Councilman Glenville Twigg.

The city has already approved a $6.9 million general fund budget for the 1999-2000 fiscal year, but officials are concerned about the city's ability to balance future budgets without cutting services.

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A boom in economic growth has allowed the city to offset rising spending costs in the past, but city officials do not want to risk relying on continued growth to maintain a balanced budget.

Martinsburg has not increased B and O taxes since June 1989 and the proposed changes would rank the city among the average of other West Virginia cities including Morgantown and Wheeling.

Increasing tax rates on groups that include retailers and contracting businesses would generate about $750,000 a year, according to city estimates.

The increase also would affect manufacturers, wholesalers, loan companies, service businesses and those who own rental properties.

City Councilman George Karos raised the lone objection to the B and O tax increase at Tuesday's meeting, calling it a "regressive tax" that is unfair to businesses.

A proposed change in garbage fees would increase the city's flat rate for garbage pickup from $135 per year to $160 per year, an increase of 24 cents per pickup.

The city's last garbage fee increase was in 1989 and the city's trash service has been averaging a $166,687 deficit over the last five years, said City Councilman and finance committee Chairman Richard Yauger.

The restructured garbage fees would still include an 18 percent discount for people who pay their fees on an annual basis, he said.

The commercial dumpster rates would also be raised, according to the proposal.

The proposed increases will be presented at two public hearings in May and, if approved by the council after a final reading in June, would be effective for the 1999-2000 budget year, which starts in July.

With $1.2 million in unfunded requests already presented in the current $6.9 million general fund budget, city officials said any additional revenues would be reinvested in city services, streets and community and economic development.

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