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Gathering protests county levy rate hike

March 24, 2009|By TRISH RUDDER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Less than 20 people attended the Berkeley County Commission public hearing Tuesday night, 12 of whom spoke out against a proposed levy rate increase.  

Danny O'Dell said he was laid off from a job last year and is working part time. He supports a family of four.

"You just can't keep putting taxes on everybody," he said. 

The commission is proposing a 12 percent levy increase, the maximum the commission can consider. It would bring in $22,324,680 but would still leave a deficit of $1,438,190 from the $23,762,870 budget request, County Administrator Deborah Hammond said. 

"We are shouldering the burden," Henry Becker said. "Where does the extra money come from? Everything is going up, but not our incomes."

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The first word that comes to mind is "wow" about the real estate tax, Lane McIntosh said, "and 'wow,' this room is not jampacked with people and shame on them," he said. 

"I plead with you not to pass this increase. There is nothing else to give," McIntosh said. 

Hammond said $11,628,384 is budgeted for public safety, with more than $6 million going to the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department. 

Hammond said with a 3 percent levy increase, the budget would be short $2,687,197, and with a 7 percent increase, it would still be short by $2,124,456, and the cuts would be severe. 

Hammond said with a 12 percent increase, a residential property of a $150,000 market value would cost the owner an additional $1.92 per month.     

Commission President Ronald K. Collins said the decision on the levy increase will be made at Thursday's meeting, which starts at 9:30 a.m. in the commission chambers.

Collins said even with the 12 percent increase, budget cuts will have to be made. He said cuts probably won't be made in the budgets for the Berkeley County Health Department or Pan Tran. 

Berkeley County Commissioner William L. "Bill" Stubblefield said he thought the turnout was light because the commissioners have been "transparent" and "open" about the need for the rate increase, and the public knew the commission had nothing to hide.

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