Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Jackson County libraries threatened with closure

For the Ashland Daily Tidings, Vickie Aldous reports that a loss of revenues threaten Jackson County libraries with closure. Perhaps now might be a good time to consider a permanent financing district, as approved during the November election in Multnomah County, Ore.

Aldous relates that during a special briefing Monday, County Commissioner Don Skundrick told the Ashland City Council that without additional revenues, all library branches except Medford’s would close during fiscal year 2014-2015. The Medford branch would close the following year.

As Aldous states:
“The county is suffering from a phase-out of federal payments that helped cover losses from falling federal timber sale revenues that are shared with counties.
“Jackson County library supporters could try to put a levy on the ballot to fund the library system, but county voters defeated previous levy attempts in 2006 and 2007.
“Libraries closed in April 2007, then re-opened late that year after federal payments were extended.
“To save money, the library system operates with reduced hours and under the management of Maryland-based Library Systems and Services.”
Ashland Library supporters renewed a supplemental levy in the November election; it pays for extra services and hours of operation at its branch. The owner of a home assessed at $245,000 pays an extra $46.55 per year in property taxes.

I view a permanent financing district as the next logical step.

In Multnomah County, the taxing district passed easily and replaces a series of three- and five-year levies that financed the system for 36 years. As related by Dana Tims on
“Formation of the district means the owner of a median-priced house in the county will pay $49 more per year -- from $156 to $205 -- than under the current temporary levy, which costs 89 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.”
The taxing district is expected to raise about $65 million annually.

I would gladly pay an extra $49 per year to permanently fund local libraries -- and would rather see efforts secure a permanent source of funding than a levy that must endlessly be renewed.

Living in a community that failed to support its libraries would be a source of endless shame. I urge library users to be vocal about the value of investing in our libraries.

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