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Renewal of excess levy to go before Berkeley County voters

August 03, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Berkeley County voters in November's general election will be asked to renew an existing excess levy on taxable property that helps the county's school district supplement salary and benefits for all personnel, purchase textbooks, and pay for maintenance and enrollment growth costs.

If renewed, the excess levy for the next four school years is expected to generate about $29.4 million annually beginning July 1, 2011, according to an election order unanimously adopted Monday by the Berkeley County Board of Education.

"It would be devastating to the district (if it wasn't renewed)," Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny P. Arvon II said. "Every employee would be affected."

For the first time, the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library system also would stand to lose the school district's financial commitment, which for the next four years would be about $635,000 annually, Arvon said.

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The existing excess levy rates, Class I -- 22.50 cents per $100 of assessed value; Class II -- 45 cents; Class III and IV -- 90 cents, were not changed for the proposed renewal.

All residential properties are Class II.

The excess levy has received continuous support from county voters since 1948, Arvon said.

While the levy rates remain unchanged, Arvon noted that the amount of money generated has decreased this year for the first time in his 14 years as superintendent because of the decline in property values.

The school district proposes that the $29,410,000 in levy money be spent as follows: school personnel salary supplements and benefits, $16 million; instructional materials, textbooks and equipment, $3.3 million; hiring additional staff and purchasing equipment and property for increased enrollment, $5,725,000; maintenance of existing facilities, $3.5 million; Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library, $635,000; Berkeley County Parks and Recreation, $112,500; West Virginia University 4-H Extension Office, $68,000; Providing Academic and Self-esteem Support (PASS) program, $41,000; and Berkeley County Health Department, $28,500.

The school district's financial commitment to the library system, which is required by a state law, was previously budgeted with general fund revenue, Arvon said. If voters decide not to support the excess levy, the school district would no longer be obligated by the law to support the library system, he said.

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