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Martinsburg budget tighter as tax collections decline

Council likely will set aside $300,000 from surplus to make up for shortfall

Council likely will set aside $300,000 from surplus to make up for shortfall

August 12, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The City of Martinsburg's budget appears to be getting tighter as tax collections continue to decline this summer, according to Finance Director Mark B. Spickler.

"We're not off to a good start," Spickler said of revenues collected for the tax quarter ending June 30.

Nearly $300,000 of more than $1 million carried over from the 2008-09 fiscal year is expected to be set aside tonight by the Martinsburg City Council for a budget shortfall in the current fiscal year.

Business and occupation tax collections, the primary cog in the city's budget, have declined for eight consecutive quarters, dropping from more than $2 million collected for the quarter ending Sept. 30, 2007, to about $1.5 million for the June quarter, according to figures released Wednesday by Spickler.

The city's business and occupation tax rates are applied to gross sales in just about any type of commercial enterprise, including banking, contracting, retail, manufacturing and service industries.

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Of significant concern to city officials in the June 2009 quarter collection figures was a continued decline in retail tax collections, Spickler said. Revenues collected for the June 2009 quarter were nearly $100,000 less than the same quarter last year and less than projections for the current year, Spickler said.

Of $1,122,300 carried over from the 2008-09 fiscal year, $273,485 is expected to be set aside by the city council.

In addition to the contingency allocation, City Council members on the budget and finance committee this week recommended money be diverted to the general development "rainy day" fund ($56,115), computer system fund ($35,000), retirement fund ($50,000), Other Post Employment Benefits Trust Fund ($100,000), City Hall/Police station project ($467,700), municipal court computer system ($100,000), fire department kitchen area improvement project ($15,000) and streetlight pole painting ($25,000).

Because of the economic downturn, City Manager Mark Baldwin said no payroll increases were recommended. He also said the city does not expect to lay off any employees.

While the budget has yet to turn around, the City Council is expected to approve committee recommendations to push ahead with about $400,000 in street repaving, the city's gateway and wayfinding signage project, and two other grant-supported projects for lighting along East John Street and design of a new town square.

Money for the paving work will be funded with $400,000 that had been previously approved but not spent, and $311,500 previously set aside for the signage project remains in place, Baldwin said.

If the city cannot install all of the signage at one time, Baldwin said the work would likely be done in phases.

The streets to be paved have not been determined, but Baldwin hoped to have the work under way later this summer.

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