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Berkeley County official says county is in good financial shape

October 27, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Berkeley County was shouldering $34.1 million in long-term debt at the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year, which ended June 30, according to the county’s annual financial statement.

The statement was reviewed Thursday by the Berkeley County Council.

The county’s debt is held by the Berkeley County Building Commission, a council-appointed board that acquires property and debt on behalf the county, according to the statement.

Much of the debt was accrued through the county’s decision to purchase and renovate the former Blue Ridge Outlet Center for a new courthouse and county office complex, according to the statement.

As of June 30, the county was scheduled to pay off the debt, including $21.6 million in interest on the general revenue bonds issued for the project and the county’s new public safety building currently under construction, by 2042, according to the statement. The county was due to pay $2.4 million on the debt by the end of the current fiscal year, according to the statement.

But even with the debt obligations, Paul Shroyer, who presented the financial statement to the council on behalf of County Clerk John W. Small Jr., said the county and the Eastern Panhandle counties as a whole generally are in better financial shape than most other counties statewide.

“Financially, you’re in pretty good shape,” said Shroyer, who noted the county’s ability to take on the debt and make the capital improvements.

Shroyer later reported that the county’s net assets for the fiscal year stood at $14.1 million.

When asked for possible threats to the county’s financial standing, Shroyer told council members, who are charged with balancing the county’s budget, that the county could be hurt if it maxes out the levy rate currently allowed by state law.

Shroyer said the county has withstood a decline in property values that ultimately affected tax collection and Douglas E. Copenhaver Jr. said he has noticed an uptick in activity at the county’s planning department, which collects fees in the review process for various types of development projects.

“They’re exceeding 2009 numbers now,” Copenhaver said.

Copenhaver said after the meeting that he was looking at trying to reduce the county’s long-term debt through refinancing.

Shroyer and Copenhaver appeared to agree that refinancing might be viable. 

“If they refinance and get a half percent (interest rate reduction), it’s going to be a chunk of money,” Shroyer said.

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