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No pay raises or fee hikes in proposed Martinsburg budget

Council expected to vote next week on spending totaling about $29.9 million

March 21, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The city of Martinsburg’s proposed spending plan for the next fiscal year doesn’t include any residential fee increases or pay raises for city employees.

The consensus reached Wednesday by the Martinsburg City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee on spending totaling about $29.9 million is expected to be voted on by the council as a whole next week.

In a review of outside agency and other government funding requests, the committee did not recommend allocations requested by Hospice of the Panhandle ($10,000), Berkeley County Roundhouse Authority ($35,000) and Eastern Panhandle Inland Port Coalition ($50,000).

A separate $7,500 request for operating expenses by the Inland Port Coalition was recommended.

Other funding recommendations included the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport Authority ($49,500), Eastern Panhandle Transit Authority ($45,000), Main Street Martinsburg ($35,000), Berkeley County Development Authority ($25,000), Berkeley County Health Department ($15,000) “for the kids, by George” Museum ($12,000) Martinsburg Little League ($11,750) and Berkeley Senior Services ($11,500). 

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Allocations to Region 9 Air Quality ($3,515) Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival ($2,000) Berkeley County Humane Society ($1,000), Adam Stephen Association ($3,750) and Affirmative Action ($1,000) also were recommended.

About $113,000 in library funding, as required by state law, also is part of the budget.

The committee also recommended $100,000 be allocated to the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Board and separately agreed to give recreation officials more time to pay back a $750,000 loan from the city for the construction of the Berkeley 2000 Recreation Center.

The extension of the loan terms, however, does not affect the city’s general operating budget, City Finance Director Mark B. Spickler said.

If the change is approved, Spickler estimated the loan would be paid off in about 10 years because more hotel/motel tax revenue collected by the city will be released to the Parks & Recreation Board and not retained by the city.

With the adjustments, the Parks & Recreation Board is projected to receive about $143,000 in hotel/motel tax revenue for operations in addition to the city’s $100,000 general fund allocation. The Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention & Visitors Bureau will receive the other half of the lodging tax revenue — about $172,500 — in accordance with state law, Spickler said.

In addition to the hotel/motel tax money, more than $120,000 in tax revenue generated by the state’s coal mining industry is budgeted for outside agencies in the proposed budget, Spickler said.

Among other changes, the committee recommended the city retain the services of Bowles Rice McDavid Graff & Love LLP to prosecute cases in municipal court in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. The city currently contracts with attorney Stefani Pierson.

Bowles Rice attorney Floyd M. “Kin” Sayre III is the city attorney. Spickler said the law firm is expected to have attorneys readily available to handle the city’s municipal court caseload

The law firm previously had filled in for Pierson when she wasn’t available, Spickler said.

After Wednesday’s meeting, Spickler said revenue generated from the city’s business and occupation tax are “right on budget” to reach $6.5 million this year, which is more than $1 million less than 2007-08 fiscal year.

“We’re really leveling off, and I just hope we don’t decrease (further),” Spickler said.

Aside from the economy, Spickler cited increased competition outside the city at retail centers such as The Commons for having an impact on the city’s major revenue stream.

The city’s spending plans include $13.9 million for general operating fund, $6.8 million for its water and sewer systems, $4 million from the police department levy, $2.8 million for sanitation services, $1.6 million for fire and EMS operations, and $525,000 for the city’s parking division.

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