Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Jackson County: countwide library district proposed

Library card for Jackson County Library Services. Silhouette of hiker against wooded mountain background bearing caption "Explore"Ryan Pfeil reported this week for the Medford Mail Tribune that Jackson County officials may put a countywide library district on the May 2014 ballot.
“The decision comes on the heels of a survey that polled 500 likely voters — those who have voted in at least two of the last four elections — in Jackson County. Of those surveyed, 52 percent supported creating a special district to fund libraries with a tax rate of 60 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, survey results show. That’s $120 for a $200,000 home.”
Commissioner John Rachor and the Library Advisory Committee board supported a South Valley District, which would include Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, Jacksonville, Applegate and Ruch branch libraries. “But Commission Chairman Don Skundrick and Commissioner Doug Breidenthal said they want the whole county to have a say instead of just a portion.”

The countywide special district, if approved by voters, would pay for 15 branch libraries. As reported earlier, Jackson County libraries cost $4.2 million each year in county general funds; the total cost to run the library system is $5 million annually.

Unless sustainable funding for the libraries is secured, all but the Medford library will be closed by June 1, 2014. The Medford library will close one year later if sustainable funding is not found.

Former Ashland Mayor Cathy Shaw, who proposed the South Valley District, indicated that a countywide measure has “little to no chance of winning.”

As related by Pfeil: “The next step for creating a countywide district will consist of either the commissioners or a political action committee going to cities in Jackson County to see which ones would sign on so county officials could adjust the proposed rate, if needed, and define district boundaries.”

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