Berkeley to up levy rate

County continues to look for ways to cut costs for budget

March 15, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Berkeley County Council on Tuesday reached a consensus to increase the levy rate used to calculate property taxes by 2 percent.

Council members are expected to meet with other elected officials to discuss the 2011-12 fiscal year budget on Thursday.

To avoid a levy increase higher than 2 percent, council members are considering a reduction in the amount of money budgeted for contingency and extending the amount of time they were expected to pay back E911 fee money that was due to Berkeley County Cental Dispatch, among other adjustments.

Central Dispatch operates with E911 fees collected by telephone service providers. Agency Director Mary Kackley said Tuesday that she didn't expect a delay in reimbursing the money would negatively impact her operational budget.

E911 fee revenue is supposed to be deposited into a special fund and exclusively used for the emergency communications department, but an accounting of how the E911 money was spent led to the county to agree in 2008 to pay Central Dispatch about $2.4 million in fees in $250,000 payments, county officials said.

While looking for ways to cut spending, county council members also discussed Tuesday how they could possibly find money to allow Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely to hire an additional assistant prosecutor.

Games-Neely told council members in her budget presentation that she needed additional help to handle additional appellate work that was triggered by new rules adopted by the state Supreme Court of Appeals.

Other proposed appropriations that generated considerable discussion by council members were a proposed $28,000 capital improvements allocation for the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Board and a $10,000 increase for the Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority's budget, which has cut recycling services due to previous budget cuts.

Aside from insuring county offices are appropriately funded to operate, county budget mandates include about $2.5 million for debt service, another $2.5 million for jail costs and about $676,000 for the county's public library system.

Utility and high fuel prices prompted council members to propose setting aside more than $2.7 million for the county's courthouse day-to-day operational account for next year.

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