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Berkeley County budget larger for 2013-14

March 28, 2013|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A $26 million general fund budget to run Berkeley County for fiscal year 2013-14 beginning July 1 will be sent to the state auditor for review next week following a unanimous Berkeley County Council vote Thursday.

The new appropriation came in about $1.5 million higher than the budget that expires June 30, said Deborah Hammond, the county’s administrator.

The county saw an increase in assessed property values for the first time in three years, a sign that things might be beginning to stabilize, Hammond said.

The county reassesses a third of its real estate property every year. The increased assessments for 2012-13 were from northern Berkeley County, she said.

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Beginning July 1, property in the county’s central section, including the city of Martinsburg, will be assessed. In 2014, the southern part will be done, Hammond said.

The county’s levy rate remains unchanged, but property owners whose assessments have gone up could see corresponding increases in their real estate taxes, Hammond said. Those whose assessments dropped could see tax cuts.

“It’s been a struggle, without question,” Hammond said of budgeting problems in recent years because of the recession.

While assessments might be on the rise, the county has seen a decline in income from engineering fees and building permits paid by developers, Hammond said. A high number of existing plotted lots is not seeing building activity because of the slow economic recovery. 

“It’s been static,” Hammond said.

The latest census figures project Berkeley County’s population to reach 107,000 this year, County Councilman Doug E. Copenhaver Jr. said during Thursday’s meeting.

Included in the new budget is an allocation of $300,000 for $1,000 across the-board pay raises for the 259 full-time county employees beginning July 1. Part-time workers will receive an extra 50 cents per hour.

The raises will be the first for county employees since October 2010.

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