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Excess police levy vote to be held in two weeks

November 29, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Residents of Martinsburg will be asked in two weeks to again support an excess police levy, which is used to pay the salaries and benefits and for equipment needs of nine officers with the Martinsburg Police Department.

Levy money will not be used to hire nine additional officers, which City Finance Director Mark Spickler said some people believe.

The special election is Saturday, Dec. 13. All of the city's regular polling places will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Absentee voting is being conducted at City Hall.

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Only city residents are affected. Other residents in Berkeley County would not pay the additional tax.

Around $652,000 is expected to be generated each year for the next five years by the levy, depending on property values.

Residents within the city would pay 5.25 cents per $100 of Class I property they own, including farm animals, machinery, deeds and other intangibles; 10.5 cents for each $100 worth of Class II property, including one's home; and 21 cents per $100 of Class IV property, including vehicles, rental and business property. The tax would be calculated at 60 percent of the assessed property value.

Those rates are lower than what could be charged. City officials had the option of charging up to 6.25 cents for Class I property, 12.5 cents for Class II property and 25 cents for Class IV property, Spickler said.

"We rolled it back every year to only collect what we need," he said.

Every penny collected is used by the police department.

Although Martinsburg's mayor and each of the seven city councilman will be up for re-election in June, Spickler said holding a special election before then was necessary.

The city's budget must be sent to state authorities in March. Since the budget includes the levy, city officials need to know whether it has passed, Spickler said.

Should the levy fail during the special election, it could appear on the ballot in June, Spickler said.

Holding the special election will cost the city around $20,000. Spickler said that money will come from the city's general fund, not from levy money.

At least 60 percent - a super majority - of the city's registered voters must approve the levy for it to take effect next July.

Along with nine officers, the levy money also is used, if possible, to pay for one dispatcher and one part-time secretary, Spickler said.

Nine officers make up one-fifth of the department's police force.

Since joining the city's staff in 1990, Spickler said the levy consistently has been approved by voters.

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