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Berkeley police levy fails, school levy passes

November 06, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County voters said "yes" to a school levy Tuesday, but "no" to one for the sheriff's department, meaning students will continue receiving free textbooks, but residents will not see an additional 10 deputies on the roads.

The school levy needed 50 percent of the vote, and got 55.95 percent. The police levy needed 60 percent to pass, but got 55.22 percent, according to unofficial returns.

Berkeley County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Kenneth Lemaster stood in the courthouse lobby Tuesday night, keeping an eye on the activity and getting updates on the levy.

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"Sixty percent's hard to get. The majority passed it," he said. The levy has failed in past attempts, as well. "We'll just keep dealing with what we've got.

"I don't know how much longer we're going to be able to keep up with the growth," Lemaster said.

The police levy would have allowed the sheriff to add 10 deputies - bringing the total number to 50 officers; buy 18 cruisers in its first year and pay for uniforms, salary increases for current officers and benefits. It was expected to generate $2.8 million over its three-year lifespan.

The school levy, a continuation of one that has been supported for 54 years, will enable the school to continue providing free textbooks and to pay for salaries, maintenance and support for community organizations.

State Sen. John Unger, between broadcasts for a local AM radio station, said the Legislature passed a bill before his tenure that declared school levies only needed a majority, while other levies needed 60 percent to pass. He took office four years ago.

The school levy generates nearly $12.8 million a year for the school system and enables the county to provide free textbooks to every student; pays the salaries of 72 service workers and 26 professional workers for which the state does not pay; covers coaches' salaries; and helps pay for extracurricular activities.

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