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Berkeley County Council tax rates unchanged

property values rising

If property values continue to improve, a levy rate decrease could be in order next year

April 17, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Berkeley County Council made no change to its levy rates Tuesday, but some property owners might still see an increase in their tax bills due to increased property values.   

County Council President Anthony J. “Tony” Petrucci said Tuesday that the rates were left unchanged, even with the overall improvement in property values, to provide “a little cushion” for the county to operate.

For the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the levy rate for Class II property, which includes owner-occupied homes, will be 27.8 cents per $100 of assessed property value, according to county budget documents. The Class III property and Class IV property levy rates were set at 55.6 cents per $100 of assessed value. The fiscal year begins July 1.

In areas where property values have improved, like Falling Waters, W.Va., Petrucci said property owners might see a higher tax bill while others might see a lower bill or little change.

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If property values continue to improve, Petrucci said a levy rate decrease could very well be in order next year.

In the City of Martinsburg, where property values dropped for a fourth consecutive year, the city council on Tuesday approved an increase in levy rates, at least in part, to recover the lost revenue.

The levy rate for Class II property in the city will be 24.46 cents per $100 of assessed property value, and the Class III property and Class IV property levy rates were set at 48.92 cents per $100 of assessed value.  The Class II rate for the current fiscal year is 22.24 cents per $100 of assessed property value and 44.48 for Class III and Class IV property.

Finance Director Mark Spickler said the city is hopeful that property values will stabilize next year because the city’s levy rates approved Tuesday are closing in on the maximum allowed by state law.

Another decline in property values could lead to a loss in revenue, Spickler said.

Given the state Legislature’s passage of the municipal home rule legislation, Spickler said the city now has at least another option to consider to help address the city’s revenue squeeze. The legislation could allow the city to increase the sales tax by 1 percent in exchange for reducing existing business and occupation taxes.  The city has seen declines in the business tax revenue totaling more than $1 million since the 2007-2008 fiscal year and Spickler has said the key funding source for the city could remain flat in the next year, if not drop further.

Given the financial constraints, the city’s $29.9 million fiscal plan for 2013-2014 doesn’t include pay raises for employees.

The county’s budget, meanwhile, includes funding for the county’s elected officers to give each of the employees in their respective office a $1,000 pay raise.

The county’s $26 million budget also includes funding for capital improvements planned for the Berkeley Senior Center and renovations for further consolidation of county offices in the administration building at 400 W. Stephen St., Petrucci said.

A significant amount of the work to renovate and expand the county’s emergency communications center in the coming fiscal year is expected to be paid for with E-911 fees, Petrucci said. The fees are collected by telephone service providers and deposited into a special fund that is exclusively for the Central Dispatch/911 center.

Petrucci said some other capital improvements wanted by other members of County Council were left “on the table” and not budgeted.

The city’s fiscal plan is larger than the county’s because the municipality has to budget for additional departments, including a fully-staffed fire/EMS department, water/sewer and sanitation services.

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