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MailTribune.com
  • Library district will tax at max rate

    Fee for property owners of 60 cents per $1,000 assessed value set to take effect in November
  • A newly formed library district board decided Thursday to tap property owners for the maximum tax rate possible in November.
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  • A newly formed library district board decided Thursday to tap property owners for the maximum tax rate possible in November.
    The Jackson County Library District unanimously approved a 60 cents per $1,000 rate, or $90 a year on a house with a valuation of $150,000, to meet an unexpectedly large financial obligation in its first year of operation.
    During the campaign to create the library district this spring, many voters thought they would be charged less than the 60 cents.
    "I'm torn," board member Maureen Swift said. "There's going to be dissent no matter which way we go."
    The board said the library district needed the full 60 cents, in part, to pay for 17 months of library operations, rather than 12. The taxes will raise close to $10 million.
    After much discussion, the district board decided to pay most of the more than $500,000 that Ashland, Talent and White City contribute to have additional hours in their communities. Ashland alone pays about $400,000 for added hours and services.
    Ashland will continue to pay $100,000 for additional services, but not for the cost of the additional hours. Once the district begins covering that expense, Ashland will no longer collect on its library levy.
    In addition, the board set aside more than $500,000 to add hours at other branches, including possibly Medford. However, those hours will probably not be added until early next year.
    Medford resident Chris Durham objected to the inequity of the Ashland library being open 40 hours per week while Medford operates for only 24.
    "I haven't heard a rationale why we're doing that," he said. "Everyone should be increased proportionally. Is that fair to all of us taxpayers? I'm submitting that it is not."
    Durham said it is unfair that taxpayers throughout the county are footing the bill to provide additional hours in Ashland.
    Board President Jill Turner said the goal is to find an equitable solution to providing sufficient hours at all branches, although she said she agreed it doesn't appear to be the case in the interim.
    "It leaves for me some real inequities in doing that," she said. "There are a lot of things wrong in doing that."
    Turner said the board will undertake a study to determine where library hours could be added at other branches.
    She said that it would be unfair to ask Ashland residents to pay 60 cents per $1,000 plus pay for additional hours.
    Board member Susan Kiefer said it wouldn't be easy to cut back the hours at any branch because the library system already is open too few hours. For instance, Ashland is the only branch open on Sunday.
    "I think the cutting of all those hours will disrupt things in ways you couldn't imagine," she said.
    Kiefer said the board has a lot of work to do figuring out how to add hours at branches while maintaining the existing level of service.
    "It may appear inequitable in the short term, but we can make it better in the long term," she said.
    The library district is developing an agreement with Jackson County to handle the administration of libraries and to pay a management contract with LSSI, Library Systems and Services, which operates the 15 branches.
    The basic cost for 12 months of library services is $5.2 million. But Jackson County expects to be repaid for the first five months of operations this year before property taxes are paid in November. The five-month period will cost $2.2 million.
    The district board will also pick up about $500,000 in extra money being paid by communities to add hours. In addition, the district board expects to hire consultants and to have start-up costs.
    Board member Monica Weyhe urged her fellow board members to set aside sufficient dollars for capital improvements that would cover roof repairs and other expenses that will pop up in the coming years.
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.
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