Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Jackson County libraries: property levy considered

On its Facebook page, the Medford Mail Tribune asks, “Would you vote for a levy to keep the libraries open?” A budget shortfall threatens all branch libraries in Jackson County Library Services.

According to Commissioner John Rachor, as reported by freelance writer John Darling for the Medford Mail Tribune, “a levy of 27 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation would provide the nearly $5 million needed to keep all branches open. On a house assessed at $189,000, the median price of single-family homes in the county, the tax would amount to $51 a year.”

A property levy may be the next recourse after a survey showed lack of support for a surcharge on utility bills.

As related by Ryan Pfeil for the Ashland Daily Tidings, 57 percent of respondents in a survey of likely voters said they would oppose a $7 per month surcharge that would support the Jackson County jail.

The problem I have with the proposed surcharge is that there is no guarantee that the general fund money it freed up would be allocated toward libraries.

I would gladly support a surcharge or a property levy, if I knew the money would specifically be used to keep Jackson County libraries open. But I urge consideration of a special taxing district instead. I appreciate Marjorie Showalter of Jackson County Friends of the Library for also advancing this view (as related in Darling’s article).

In Multnomah County, a taxing district is expected to raise about $65 million annually. Approved by voters last November, it replaces a series of three- and five-year levies that financed libraries for 36 years.

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