Jackson County library supporters will have many hurdles to clear to get voter approval for a three-year levy on the May 15 ballot:
Many voters have expressed reluctance to increase property taxes in light of other recent bond measures. Library supporters say each voter will have to decide whether he or she can afford the property tax increase. However, they say a strong library system benefits the entire community and gives children and teenagers a safe place to go after school.Some residents are concerned that Jackson County officials will take the money from the levy away from the libraries to support other county services. County officials say they could legally use the money for other purposes, but that politically it would be almost impossible.Many residents think the county has the money to pay for libraries, sometimes citing a $24 million rainy-day fund. County officials will rely on the rainy-day fund to maintain public safety for as long as possible. County officials said if the fund were spent quickly, Jackson could be in the same shape as Josephine County, which won't be making arrests for drugs, burglaries or other property crimes because it can't afford to prosecute them.A so-called "double majority" will be required to approve the levy. A $38.9 million bond measure to build new libraries passed in 2000 under the double majority rule.Some Jackson County residents believe libraries aren't necessary because of the Internet, or because they just don't use them. Library supporters argue that most books aren't available online. Library usage has gone up since the new buildings have opened. Libraries also offer Internet access for those without a computer at home.The library levy failed last November with 59 percent of voters rejecting it. Library supporters say voters then didn't believe libraries would actually close.Even if the county received a one-year extension of federal timber revenues, commissioners have said they wouldn't reopen libraries on a temporary basis.The levy will fund libraries at current levels and at a cost that is less than other counties in the state. According to library officials, in 2004-2005, the last year for which figures were available, operating costs for Jackson County libraries per resident were $39.16, compared with $45.12 for library service in Deschutes County, $60.41 in Corvallis-Benton County, $61.50 in Eugene, and $64.84 in Multnomah County.