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Taxpayers to spend $57 million for center

October 03, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- Taxpayers currently are shouldered with $34.9 million in long-term debt for Berkeley County's government and judicial complex and are on track to pay another $22.3 million in interest by 2038, according to the county's financial statements, which were finalized last month.

The debt, in the form of $34,979,892 in general revenue bonds, were issued to pay for the renovation of the Blue Ridge Outlet Center along South Raleigh Street in Martinsburg and the purchase of the neighboring Kimco commercial property in 2007, according to the annual statements, which were presented to the Berkeley County Commission by Paul Shroyer and County Clerk John W. Small Jr.

By comparison, the net value of the county building commission's capital assets was $37.7 million and the county commission's net value of capital assets was $9.8 million, as of June 30, the end of the 2008-09 fiscal year, according to the financial statements.

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The building commission is authorized to issue bonds, take on debt and acquire property as an arm of the Berkeley County Commission, which is obligated to make the debt payments.

All three county commissioners have quietly said they want to sell the Kimco property, which if successful, would reduce the debt obligation. The property, formerly home to a Martin's grocery store and CVS/pharmacy was purchased with $3.1 million in bonds issued, which are due to be paid in June 2010, according to the county's financial statement.

County leaders also hope to eventually sell at least two former judicial and administration buildings in the 100 block of West King Street to complete a plan to consolidate government offices at the former retail outlet shopping complex off South Raleigh, West Stephen and South streets.

Aside from substantial long-term debt obligations, the county commission finished the 2008-09 fiscal year with $602,830 in cash available in its general revenue fund and another $349,710 in the account to pay for pending purchases, according to the financial statement.

The cash available was enough to cover the next county payroll, which is about $500,000 every two weeks, according to county records.

The fiscal year financial statement indicates the county government spent more money ($21,147,947) than incoming revenue ($20,877,065), but that deficit existed because the county was required to post an estimated cost ($324,000) for post-employment benefits as an expense, according to Shroyer.

The projected total general fund revenue for the 2008-09 fiscal year in the levy estimate was $23.2 million, according to a copy of the budget document posted on the county commission's Web site.

The county's rainy day fund ended the fiscal year with a balance of $4.91, according to the financial statement.

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