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MailTribune.com
  • Panel rejects proposals to keep only Central Library open, initiate income tax

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  • In recommending a library levy in May, the Jackson County budget committee rejected other ideas to alleviate a $23 million shortfall in the county coffers.
    The committee rejected without voting a proposal by Chairman Dick Rudisile to keep just the Central Library open in Medford.
    County Administrator Danny Jordan said the proposal would cost roughly $4.5 million, a little more than half the current $8 million spent on all 15 branches.
    He said more personnel would be needed at the Medford branch to handle visitors who would pour in from outlying areas.
    The committee also voted against a proposal to ask voters to approve a 1 percent income tax to fund county services primarily because of the complexity required to prepare it in time for the May election.
    "I don't think this is very well thought out," said Rudisile, who voted against it. "I frankly think that one percent is too much."
    Library supporters wanted a 1 percent income tax to generate about $30 million annually to not only fund libraries but prevent cuts to the sheriff's and roads departments.
    Jordan told commissioners a tax code would have to be created and the entire process could take until 2009 before taxes are actually collected.
    Walker said, "This thing is dead in the water."
    Committee member Shayne Maxwell said that she also had concerns about it, but thought they could be overcome to persuade voters.
    "It's a crisis that is now becoming common knowledge to people," she said.
    Jordan said the county doesn't have enough discretionary money to fund other services. Of the $43 million in discretionary money the county receives, only $29 million is left after the county loses its funding from the Secure Rural Schools and Self Determination Act. The Sheriff's Department, community justice and the district attorney's office require $28 million, leaving only $1 million left to spend on other county departments.
    "We could cut everything else the county does and we would still have to cut libraries," he said.
    The county is planning to set aside $1.4 million to maintain the libraries after they're closed and keep them ready for reopening if a levy passes.
    Jordan said the county has $24 million in a rainy-day fund that could be used to pay for some county services. He expects this fund to grow to about $27 million at the end of the fiscal year if the county doesn't have any unforeseen expenses.
    Committee members expressed concern about the future of libraries after the May ballot.
    "What happens if this one fails?" said Rudisile.
    Commissioner Dave Gilmour, who supported the income tax and levy proposals, responded, "Nobody knows the answer to that."
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