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Berkeley County may up transfer fees to pay for farmland

February 07, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Commissioners are considering increasing the real estate transfer tax and using the additional revenue to buy land for the recently adopted Farmland Preservation Protection Program.

Currently when a property is sold, the buyer pays $4.40 per $1,000 of value. The commissioners are proposing raising the fee by another $2.20, to $6.60.

Lavonne Paden, with the Berkeley County Farmland Protection Board, told the commissioners Thursday morning she already has enough land applications to use all the extra money.

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People are seeking to incorporate more than 1,000 acres of farmland into the program, she said.

County Commission President Howard Strauss, who said he is a proponent of the farmland program, said the commissioners intended to act on the issue, but tdid not. Although Strauss said the commission's meeting was considered a public hearing on the matter, it was not listed as such on the agenda.

A public hearing will be held Thursday, Feb. 27, at 2 p.m. Anyone who wishes to speak on the tax can do so then, or submit written comments to the commission by Feb. 24.

County Clerk John Small told the commissioners that the tax should be raised by $1.10, which he said is plenty considering the county's growth.

Paden, however, said that would delay adding land to the farmland protection program because less money would be raised. The additional $2.20 would equal to almost half a million dollars a year in revenue, Paden said.

At a rate of $6.60, the buyer of a $100,000 home would pay $660 in transfer taxes. For the same house value in Frederick County, Md., the buyer would pay $1,500 in transfer taxes, and $1,260 in Washington County, Paden said.

Imposing the tax on home buyers - not sellers - is fair, Paden said, because new residents should help preserve a slice of the county's farmland.

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