Jackson County surcharge nixed

Jackson County Commissioners struck down a surcharge proposed to fill a $6.8 million general fund shortfall because a recent poll showed significant public opposition to the idea.

Commissioners Doug Breidenthal and John Rachor voted against the surcharge but wanted to look for other ways to support the 15 county libraries threatened by a looming budget shortfall.

Commissioner Don Skundrick, who proposed the surcharge in May to avoid cutting general fund support for sheriff's patrols, veterans' services, health and human services, the Oregon State University Extension Service and county libraries, voted against rejecting the surcharge.

"I don't want to live in a county without libraries," Skundrick said.

The initial proposed cost of the surcharge was $7 per month, although the amount eventually could climb to as much as $10 per month.

In a phone survey of 500 likely voters, 57 percent said they opposed the surcharge, while 31 percent were in favor and 11 percent undecided. The primary reason cited by those in opposition to the surcharge was the cost, with many saying they could not afford it, county officials said Tuesday.

The county's budget committee determined the libraries must find additional funding sources by the 2014-15 fiscal year, or all branches except Medford could close. The Medford library could close the following fiscal year.

Both Breidenthal and Rachor said they supported libraries but felt the will of the voters regarding the surcharge came through loud and clear.

— Damian Mann

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