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Retail eases Berkeley tax decline

February 02, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Commercial development, including the opening of the Wal-Mart store in northern Berkeley County, is projected to help soften a sharp decline in tax revenue generated by new residential construction in the coming year, according to Berkeley County Assessor Preston B. Gooden.

The total amount of new construction added to real estate books for the 2009 tax year -- from July 1, 2007, to June 30, 2008 -- declined by $26 million from the previous tax year, Gooden said.

The drop-off could have been substantially larger without the arrival of Wal-Mart in Spring Mills, and a number of other commercial projects in the Falling Waters and Martinsburg tax districts, Gooden said.

Overall, the assessor told the Berkeley County Commission convened as the Board of Review and Equalization on Friday that his office estimated an increase in tax revenue generated from his office's real estate assessments, but the county's share of the gain still would be "peanuts" compared to what ends up in state coffers.

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The net assessed value of real estate in Berkeley County for the 2009 tax year was $4.7 billion, an increase of $90.9 million over the 2008 tax year, Gooden said.

Applying the residential, Class II tax rate to that increase in assessed value of taxable property would generate about $1 million, but doesn't factor in the higher Class III rate, which is applied to commercial properties, Gooden said.

Based on state code, real estate appraised at $100,000 would have an assessed value of $60,000, and the latter is used to calculate the property owner's tax bill.

The assessed value of new commercial construction added for the 2009 tax year was $28.3 million. This figure includes Wal-Mart, McDonald's, Centra Bank and a commercial strip in the Spring Mills Towne Center, and nearby Reed's Pharmacy near the intersection of W.Va. 901 and U.S. 11.

In the Martinsburg tax district, Gooden's office added Walgreens, the U.S. Coast Guard National Maritime Center building and Apple Valley Chevrolet, among other properties to the books.

Gooden said there was some decline in residential property values and fewer properties were sold during the 2009 tax year, but he also noted that what was changing hands was still being purchased at a pretty good price.

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