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Berkeley County Council preparing next year's budget, president's outlook remains conservative

February 22, 2013|BY MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Some property values in Berkeley County have stabilized after consecutive years of decline, but Berkeley County Council President Anthony J. “Tony” Petrucci’s budget outlook for 2013-2014 remains conservative.

“My goal is to keep the levy rate the same or even lower if we can,” Petrucci said Friday.

Berkeley County Council, which acts as the county’s budget-balancing arm, reviewed several accounts directly under its control Thursday as part of ongoing work to prepare next year’s budget.

County Administrative Officer Deborah Hammond recommended a little more than $3 million be budgeted for regional jail bills and $2.6 million for everyday expenses such as utilities, fuel and telephone costs.

Hammond said county employees have been doing a good job in reducing utility costs by “putting buildings to sleep” when offices are closed, but noted she did not recommend a reduction in what is known as the “courthouse” account because the Sheriff’s Department’s new 36,000-square-foot public safety building is slated to come on line in the next fiscal year.

County Council’s account for ongoing capital projects, including the public safety building, would increase to more than $640,000 for the next fiscal year, including about $238,000 in salary and wages based on preliminary figures Hammond reviewed with County Council members Thursday.

The capital improvement project account is reimbursed through the proceeds of a previously approved bond issue for the public safety building, which is projected to cost between $2.8 and $3 million.

Hammond also recommended $535,000 for a series of smaller maintenance projects, including roof work, roof replacement and painting at the historic county courthouse at 100 W. King St., roof replacement at the facilities shop, painting at the Berkeley County Judicial Center and roof replacement at the county health department’s clinical building.

Among other recommendations, Hammond said the County Council needs budget about $2.5 million to service the county’s debt and she recommended at least $172,000 be set aside in the county’s “rainy day fund” for the start of next year, if not more.

Hammond said there is currently about $443,000 in the rainy day fund. Hammond separately recommended $200,000 be set aside in the county’s contingency fund for the next fiscal year, which now has about $449,000.

At the midway point of the current fiscal year, Hammond said the county’s regional jail bill this year was on track to be about $2.9 million, but recommended a slightly higher appropriation to avoid a shortfall.

Hammond said after Thursday’s meeting, County Council is expected to review accounts and budget requests from planning, engineering and other departments that are under County Council’s supervision next week.

Thursday’s review of accounts came after County Council concluded work as the Board of Review and Equalization.

Property value adjustments were approved for The Woods Resort, Marlowe Town Center and the former Apple Valley Chevrolet dealership property at 301 Wilson St. in Martinsburg, as a result of hearings requested.

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