(a) The rates which a publisher or proprietor of a qualified newspaper in West Virginia may charge and receive for a single or first publication of any legal advertisement set solid depends on the bona fide circulation of the newspaper, as follows:
(1) Four cents per word if the qualified newspaper has a bona fide circulation of less than one thousand, except as provided in subdivision (1), subsection (a) of this section;
(2) Eight and one-half cents per word if the qualified newspaper has a bona fide circulation of one thousand to five thousand;
(3) Nine cents per word if the qualified newspaper has a bona fide circulation of more than five thousand but less than ten thousand;
(4) Ten cents per word if the qualified newspaper has a bona fide circulation of more than ten thousand and less than thirty thousand; or
(5) Eleven cents per word if the qualified newspaper has a bona fide circulation of thirty thousand or more: Provided, That on July 1, 2003 and on July 1, 2004 and on July 1, 2005 the allowable rate per word in each of the classifications of qualified newspapers with reference to circulation as set forth in this subsection shall, for each classification, increase 1¢ per word over the prior year's rate.
(b) In computing the number of words in a legal advertisement, not set solid, the basis is the size of type in which legal advertising is set by the qualified newspaper making the publication and shall be computed at the legal rate as though the matter were solid type, that is to say, on the basis of eighty-four words to the single column inch in six point type and fifty-four words to the single column inch in eight point type and any other size type in proportion.
(c) In determining the cost of a legal advertisement which is to appear more than once in the same qualified newspaper, the cost for the first publication shall be computed as specified in subsections (a) and (b) of this section and the cost of the second and each subsequent publication shall be seventy-five percent of the cost of the first publication computed as specified in subsections (a) and (b) of this section.
(d) The average bona fide circulation stated by each qualified newspaper in the statement filed by the newspaper with the United States post office department in October of each year shall control the rate of circulation classification of the qualified newspaper for the period commencing July 1, of each year until the last day of June of the following year. On or before November 1, of each year, the publisher or proprietor of each newspaper desiring to publish any legal advertisement during the ensuing one year time period commencing July 1, shall file with the Secretary of State an affidavit stating the average bona fide circulation of the newspaper during the preceding twelve month time period ending September 30, of each year and shall set forth sufficient facts in the affidavit to show whether the newspaper is a qualified newspaper. The average bona fide circulation stated in the affidavit by each qualified newspaper shall control the rate circulation classification for the ensuing twelve-month period commencing July 1, . Any qualified newspaper for which the required affidavit is not filed on or before March 1 of any calendar year shall be conclusively presumed to have for the ensuing twelve-month period commencing July 1, of such year a bona fide circulation of less than one thousand. At the time a publisher or proprietor of a qualified newspaper files an affidavit with the Secretary of State, as required by this subsection, the publisher or proprietor shall notify the clerk of the county commission and the board of Education of the county in which the qualified newspaper is published of the circulation classification of the qualified newspaper and of the applicable rate for publishing legal advertisements in the qualified newspaper during the ensuing twelve-month period commencing July 1, . If the qualified newspaper is published in a municipality, the publisher or proprietor shall at the same time also furnish the same notification to the clerk or recorder of the municipality.
(e) The rate charged for political advertising appearing in a newspaper at any time or times during the time period commencing thirty days prior to any primary or general election and ending the day following the election may not exceed one hundred five percent of the lowest commercial rate charged by the newspaper in which the political advertising appears.
(f) Nothing contained in this section prohibits qualified newspapers from charging less than the specified rates for any legal advertisement or from charging usual and customary rates for notarizing and producing additional copies of the affidavits and statements required in section four of this article.