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Martinsburg City Council considering levy rate increase

Majority of panel would support holding public hearing on March 21

March 04, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com
  • Lewis
Lewis

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Martinsburg City Council is considering an increase in the levy rate used to generate property tax to offset a 13 percent decrease in the assessed value of property and projected increases in operating costs.

The council is expected to vote March 10 on whether to hold a public hearing about a proposed levy rate increase.

A majority of the council's Budget and Finance Committee Thursday indicated they would support holding a public hearing on March 21 to increase the levy rate.

Ward 4 Councilman Roger Lewis, the lone opponent, said the rate increase would place an added tax burden on small businesses that are already grappling with a difficult economy.

Council members Richard Yauger and Betty Gunnoe were absent.

A resident with property worth $100,000 and assessed at $60,000 would pay an additional $10.56 per year in  property taxes if the levy rate were increased by 12 percent, according to an example that City Finance Director Mark B. Spickler reviewed Thursday with members of the council budget panel.

Business property owners using the same property and assessed values would pay an additional $21.12 per year.

Spickler said property in Martinsburg had a total assessed value of about $700 million, but the city only will net a little over $2 million in accordance with the state's tax structure.

Although the decline in business and occupation tax revenue appears to be leveling off, Spickler said he anticipates increased financial allocations for health insurance, the public employees retirement system, matching grant obligations for additional firefighters and other costs.

Spickler said business taxes have not continued to drop as they did the previous two years when the city had to absorb consecutive declines of about $500,000 in the taxes collected on gross sales, Spickler said.

To close the gap last year, the city adopted a 12 percent levy rate increase, the maximum allowed under state law. Positions in city government were left vacant, and employees did not get raises for a second consecutive year, Spickler told the committee.

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