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Proposed Berkeley County levy rates announced

March 23, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA - With assessed property values still rising in 2006, the Berkeley County Commission again has proposed reducing the levy or tax rate for property owners, if not to the maximum possible reduction allowed by state law.

For Class I property, the rate per $100 is proposed to be 9.72 cents, down from 10.01. The proposed rate for Class II was reduced from 20.02 to 19.44 and Class III and IV were dropped from 40.04 to 38.88 cents.

County leaders had the authority to reduce the rate to 8.94 cents per $100 for Class 1 property, along with sharper reductions for the other property classes. Instead, they were required to hold a public hearing for partially holding back some of the reduction. None of the few residents who attended the public hearing Thursday spoke on the proposed rates.

Berkeley County Commissioners attributed the county's ongoing investment in its facilities and employees as the reason for not reducing the rate by at least 1 percent.

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The county's projected $25,025,074 budget for the 2007-08 fiscal year (beginning July 1) includes $10,689,851 in payroll and benefits for county employees, according to County Administrator Deborah Hammond. The budget plan includes a $2,086,159 allocation for debt service stemming from the county's purchase and renovation of the former Blue Ridge Outlets complex for a judicial center and county administration offices, officials said. The annual debt service obligation also includes $5.3 million in financing not spent for the renovation of the Outlet buildings and an emergency services project at Tablers Station Business Park, Hammond confirmed.

County leaders are expected to formally approve the budget Tuesday, but not "lay" the levy rates until the third week of April.

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