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Dec. 13 police vote merits Martinsburg citizens' okay

December 02, 2003

Two weeks before Christmas might seem like an odd time for an election, but for citizens of Martinsburg, W.Va., going to the polls on Saturday, Dec. 13 will be more important than any holiday shopping.

Why? Because that's when citizens will decide whether to extend an excess police levy, which pays for salaries, equipment and benefits for nine city police officers.

We're not talking about new police officers, but nine who are already on the force. If the levy fails, the department will have nine fewer officers, at a time when there are more than 25,000 calls for service annually - a total that has been rising by several hundred each year.

If the levy fails, the city council would have to find another way to generate the $652,000 per year needed to fund those positions - or eliminate 20 percent of its police force.

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If that happens, police services now taken for granted might have to be cut back. That includes a variety of measures designed to deter crime instead of just handling it after it occurs. Isn't it better to prevent crimes than to investigate them afterward they happen?

Like Hagerstown, Martinsburg is the hub of a growing county and its police force must provide service to county residents who come to town for banking, medical appointments and other business.

How much would it cost?

City residents would pay 5.25 cents per $100 of Class I property, including farm animals, machinery, deeds and other intangibles; 10.5 cents for each $100 worth of Class II property, including dwellings; and 21 cents per $100 for Class IV property, including vehicles, rental and business property. The tax would be calculated at 60 percent of the assessed property value.

In simple terms, the owner of a $100,000 home would pay about 17 cents per day to keep those nine officers on the payroll.

Two other things: If you're thinking that you don't have time to cast your ballot, that the measure will surely pass without your vote, please think again. To pass, the measure requires that at least 60 percent of the voters approve it.

And finally, how would you like to find out two weeks before Christmas that the people you've been serving - risking you life for, in some cases - don't think that much of your efforts?

Most citizens do appreciate the work police do, but now is the time to show it. The polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., so please go and vote to renew the levy.

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