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Martinsburg finishes fiscal year with surplus

July 27, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A taxpayer who owed five years of back taxes worth more than $200,000 to Martinsburg helped ease the pinch on the city's budget, City Finance Director Mark B. Spickler said Tuesday.

Along with a couple of other unexpected "one-time" shots of revenue, the city's unassigned general fund balance at the end of the fiscal year was $1,484,002, according to figures released this week.

Spickler declined to identify the delinquent taxpayer who paid the city $202,364 in business and occupation taxes, which are based on gross sales.

The city netted another $105,252 in business and occupation tax revenue that was forfeited when JDL Martinsburg LLC, an affiliate of JDL Castle Corp. of North Carolina sold the U.S. Coast Guard National Maritime Center building at 100 Forbes Drive, Spickler said.

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Another $56,861 in building permit fees also was forfeited with the sale, Spickler said.

Combined with a $78,615 reimbursement from state and federal agencies for the city's blizzard response this winter and $141,558 in new construction building permits, Spickler said his projection for the unassigned general fund balance -- $500,000 -- was nearly tripled.

"I can't bank on that every year," Spickler said.

With the business and occupation tax revenue, Spickler said the city finished the fiscal year June 30 with about $6.8 million -- $300,000 over his projected total.

After seeing a loss of more than $1 million in business and occupation tax revenue since the 2007-08 fiscal year, the City Council earlier this year approved a levy rate increase and a fire fee increase to plug a projected $500,000 budget hole caused by the declining tax revenue, expected increases in health insurance, police and fire pension benefits, and reductions in police and fire grants.

The city also decided to leave three positions unfilled and did not budget money for the city retirement, computer system and health insurance trust funds. A pay increase also was not budgeted.

Since the budget was approved in March, Spickler said the city saved about $100,000 in workers compensation insurance costs after the municipality was allowed by the state to advertise for a new provider. Budgets for jail and legal fees also were not completely drained and the health insurance for the city's employees did not increase, Spickler said.

But given the continued economic uncertainty, Spickler said city officials might still wish to be conservative with the one-time revenue and only spend it on needed equipment and special projects, rather than pay increases or other expenses that would add on to future budgets. A portion could also be put in the city's rainy day fund, Spickler said.

The City Council's Budget & Finance Committee might meet next month to discuss how the money should be allocated, Spickler said.

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