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Berkeley sets higher levy for 2000-2001

April 19, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Commission on Tuesday gave final approval to a 2000-2001 tax levy about 3 percent higher than this year's.

Two-thirds of the increase will go to the assessor's office to cover the cost of appraisals. The other 1 percent will go into the general fund.

Commissioner Robert Burkhart said the County Commission opposed the appraisal money, but was powerless to reject it. Burkhart said there is already a surplus of about $370,000 in the appraisal fund.

By law, county assessors, including Fink, can receive up to 2 percent of the levy to cover the cost of appraisals and related expenses. The money goes in the valuation fund.

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Fink, who did not attend the meeting, took umbrage to the commission's objections. She said that much of the money in the appraisal account is already earmarked for a global information system that will enhance county maps. She expects the system to cost about $200,000.

That supplemental fund will also help pay for salaries, vehicles and computer maintenance, Fink said. She said the county only partly funds her employees' salaries in the budget.

"I don't want a pile of money," she said. "I want to make sure I'm covered."

Fink said her office is required to reappraise properties in each of the county's eight districts every three years.

The state Property Valuation Training and Procedures Commission, commonly known as PVC, decides on local assessors' appraisal fund requests.

The PVC sends copies of the budgets to the levying bodies, which can comment on them before them the PVC decides, according to Jerry Knight, director of the Property Tax Division in the state tax department.

The Berkeley County Commission did not voice any objections to Fink's appraisal valuation budget when it was initially proposed, Knight said.

He said it is common for assessors to build up their valuation funds for a specific project.

County Administrator Deborah Sheetenhelm-Hammond said that county residents next year will pay about the same in overall taxes as this year because the school district debt will decrease.

In March, the County Commission approved its $11.6 million budget for the next fiscal year. The budget was sent to the Office of the State Auditor for review.

Each county in West Virginia must approve a final levy on the third Tuesday in April.

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