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Sheriff asks for $1 million increase in his next budget

February 25, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Tensions ran high between a Berkeley County Commission member and the county sheriff Thursday after the sheriff asked that his annual budget be increased by more than $1 million.

Currently, Berkeley County Sheriff Randy Smith operates with a budget of $2.3 million. He asked that his budget for the upcoming fiscal year be increased to more than $3.3 million, drawing the ire of Commissioner Howard Strauss.

The two have quarreled in past public meetings over a variety of matters.

Smith asked that each of his employees receive a four-step raise and that at least eight new police cruisers be purchased, along with four four-wheel drive vehicles.

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Buying the eight new police cruisers is a priority, since many of the department's current cruisers have more than 100,000 miles on them, the sheriff said.

When Strauss said his car has more than 300,000 miles on it, Smith retorted that Strauss is not driving all over the county all day, responding to police calls.

Asking how Smith expected the commission to fund his budget, Strauss asked Smith whether he favors increasing taxes.

Smith answered no.

Strauss then asked, one question at a time, whether Smith favors reducing other departments' budgets, an excess tax levy or a zoning ordinance, which would allow the county to level impact fees when new homes are built.

Smith answered no to each question.

He suggested the county increase its hotel-motel tax and forward half of the proceeds to the sheriff's department.

Commissioner Ron Collins, who used increasing the hotel-motel tax as one of his campaign platforms, said that such an increase - if approved by the state Legislature - will be dedicated solely to Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation.

Smith also suggested the county allow Assessor Preston Gooden to hire enough personnel to properly and in a timely manner assess all new and existing homes in the county, bringing in revenue.

He defended his budget.

"These are needs. There is no fluff in that budget," Smith said. "We are overwhelmed, short-staffed and underpaid and we've got to do something about it."

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