TALENT — Noting the town's new library is set to close before it's even been built, the City Council agreed Wednesday that the solution to this budget crisis should be up to Jackson County — not individual cities.
The city will send a letter to Jackson County commissioners asking that they find a method of funding libraries, rather than leaving the fate of its 15 branches to cities.
The branches are set to close April 6 after Congress failed to renew the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act, resulting in a $23 million shortfall in Jackson County coffers. The act provided some $273 million to Oregon counties in lieu of timber receipts as part of a funding mechanism in place since 1908.
Former Talent Mayor Marian Telerski told the council Wednesday she would feel ashamed to live in a town and a county that would close its libraries. Telerski said having libraries represents the ability for all people to read and learn regardless of social class, religion or economic standing.
"I know this sounds rather dramatic, but truly, it is a cornerstone of our democratic society to offer equal opportunity to all," she said.
Council members discussed the option of creating a separate district that would fund libraries through a property tax. Creating a district, however, would possibly close the libraries for a year while it was being created, said City Manager Betty Wheeler.
Mayor Don Steyskal said creating a district could garner more support because taxpayers could see their dollars going directly to a library fund rather than to the general county fund.
Council member Wendy Siporen said the struggle to keep libraries open is just a part of an even larger issue that the county is facing as it deals with its budget shortfall.
Staff writer Alan Panebaker can be reached at 482-3456 x 227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.