As proposed, the $23 million budget County Administrator Deborah Hammond reviewed with commissioners last week includes a small levy rate increase. The adjustment is projected to generate $13.4 million in property tax revenue, up from the $12.9 million estimate for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
The amount of taxes owed on a home with a market value of $150,000, for example, would increase by $4.32 per year if the commission adopts the levy rate increase.
The levy rates that generate the state, City of Martinsburg and the county Board of Education's portion of residents' property tax bills are expected to remain the same, officials said Saturday. A "minimal" decrease in the school district's bond debt service rate, however, actually will help residents whose property assessments haven't increased, said Jim Welton, the school board's financial officer.
The county's budget includes about $12 million for salary and benefits for employees, but no pay raises, Hammond said Friday. The county in the next fiscal year also is expected to pay about $2.2 million toward its $36.6 million debt to pay for the purchase and renovation of the former Blue Ridge Outlets complex for new judicial and government offices. The county also faces a jail bill that will easily exceed the bond debt payment.
Plans to continue the renovations with a new roof for the county's offices off West Stephen and South Raleigh streets and a new heating and cooling system for the structure have been put on hold, but design work continues, Commission President Steven C. Teufel said last week.
"We're not overextended," Teufel said when asked about the financial obligations and the draining of the county's rainy day fund. According to county records, the county's fund for emergency needs since November 2006 has been reduced from $398,123 to $1,736 as of last week.
"I had hoped I never had to touch that," Teufel said. "We'll have to work to get the funds back to that level."
After the work session Thursday, Collins acknowledged the proposed tax increase was "actually not enough" but the commission was trying to protect the senior citizens of the county.
During the work session, Collins noted efforts to end the 2007-08 fiscal year without a deficit by instituting a spending freeze. A year-end deficit of more than 3 percent of a county's levy estimate automatically triggers a lawsuit and could bring about the commissioners' removal from office, according to state law.
What: The Berkeley County Commission is hosting a public hearing on a proposed increase in property taxes.
When: Thursday at 2 p.m.
Where: County Commission chambers, 400 W. Stephen St., Martinsburg, W.Va.