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Martinsburg property values again fail to rise

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The value of property in Martinsburg did not increase for the sixth year in a row, Mark Spickler, the city’s finance director, told council members Tuesday during a committee-of-the-whole meeting.

Not only did the property values not increase, they went down by about 2.7 percent, according to the Berkeley County Assessor’s Office.

“We lost about $80,000 compared to last year (on existing property),” Spickler said. “We gained about $90,000 in new property this year.”

That means the city will receive a net total of about $10,000 in additional property taxes this year, he said.

The total assessed value of property in the city is about $668.7 million. Last year, it was about $686.6 million.

Since the 2010-11 fiscal year, property values in Martinsburg have declined by a total of about 40.3 percent.

By state code, when property values go down, a municipality in West Virginia is supposed to increase the property tax levy rate enough to raise the same amount of revenue from property taxes as the year before.

However, state code prohibits municipalities from raising the levy rate beyond 25 cents per $100 of assessed value for residential properties and 50 cents per $100 of assessed value for commercial properties.

Martinsburg is at the maximum levy rate because of the declining property values over the past several years. It reached the maximum levy rate last year.

The city’s levy rate for the fiscal year that begins July 1 will stay the same as the current year’s rate of 25 cents per $100 of assessed value for residential properties and 50 cents per $100 of assessed value for commercial properties.

And because the city is at the maximum rate, and, therefore, cannot raise the rate to offset the loss in revenues because of the decreased values, it will lose $80,000 on existing property.

Property taxes account for about 15 percent of the city’s total budget.

Individual tax bills will vary depending on whether the property’s assessment went up or went down.

In addition to the city’s tax levy, bills include taxes assessed by the Berkeley County Council and Berkeley County Board of Education as well as any special levies.

Council members will meet at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the city’s budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year. A special council meeting has been called for 5 p.m. March 24 to approve the budget for next fiscal year. Budgets must be sent to the state for approval before the end of the month.

As required by state law, City Council members will meet on the third Tuesday of April to lay the levy, that is, officially set the tax levy rate for the next fiscal year.

– Staff writer John McVey can be reached at 304-263-3381, ext. 128.

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