Rainy-day resources could dry up for libraries

Branch libraries could close in 2014 if Jackson County Library Services has not found revenue sources outside of the county's general fund, a budget committee warned Thursday.

The committee charged with balancing Jackson County's budget recommended dipping into the rainy-day fund to provide $4.75 million for libraries in the coming fiscal year. But members said because of declining revenue, the county may be able to fund only Medford's library in 2014-15, and possibly provide no funding at all in 2015-16.

The motion to potentially close 14 branches in 2014-15 was approved during Jackson County's budget committee hearing Thursday.

"This is setting an expectation," County Administrator Danny Jordan said, adding the motion is not binding for next fiscal year's budget committee.

Maureen Swift, of the Friends of the Medford Library organization, said she wasn't surprised by the action.

"This is not something that is totally unexpected," she said. "Certainly there has been pressure on the library budget and library services ever since the timber funding had been cut.

"It's really hard to communicate what the benefits of the library are in a way for them to keep it in the budget."

The committee's recommendations could be rendered moot if Commissioner Don Skundrick's proposal to impose a surcharge on Jackson County homes comes to fruition. County officials are currently researching the possibility of charging each house and apartment between $2 and $10 a month to help fund the county budget.

"We're going to be waiting until a decision has been made on Commissioner Skundrick's proposal," Swift said. "We're going to have to be in a kind of a hold mode."

She added the library system would propose a levy to make up for the lost revenue if the county pulls its support.

"We're going to have to find a way to communicate what the benefits of the library are," Swift said. "It's going to be a challenge."

— Ryan Pfeil

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