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County cuts library, history funds

Jackson County held firm on most budget recommendations but shaved 7.7 percent off the library department's request and slashed 19.2 percent from the historical society's request.

After learning of the county budget committee's decision Thursday night, Library Director Ronnie Budge said she did not know specifically what such a significant cut ' &

36;584,395 ' would mean to the 15-branch library system.

With that big of a cut, it will have to be a combination of services (cut), cutbacks in personnel and hours open, she said.

Budge said there had been plenty of hints that the budget committee was looking to make cuts in the library budget, but that this cut was large.

— The Jackson County budget committee made its &

36;231,188,079 budget recommendation for fiscal year 2003-04 after public hearings on Tuesday and Thursday, when many county residents gave testimony on behalf of programs and departments they wanted the county to fully fund.

The budget committee was made up of Dick Rudisile, Tim Alford, Deborah Martin and County Commissioners Jack Walker, Sue Kupillas and Dave Gilmour.

The library was asking for a 15.36 percent increase from last year's &

36;6,967,899 budget to cover increased benefit costs in the Public Employees Retirement System. The book budget and number of employees were to remain the same, Budge said.

During deliberations following Thursday's public hearing, Kupillas pointed out that the committee was not cutting the library's budget, because it was in line with last year's.

It is essentially a freeze, she said.

But Budge said the library's budget request would have maintained service levels, so libraries will have to cut to cover the added PERS expenses.

The budget committee, minus Gilmour, voted to cut the Southern Oregon Historical Society's budget from &

36;1.3 million to &

36;1,000,500.

SOHS Director John Enders said the decision translates into closures and layoffs, which will be announced later.

It's about what we expected, he said. It isn't necessary but I understand the county's position.

The county is taking the money cut from budget requests and putting it into a rainy day fund in case federal timber tax compensation funds dry up in 2006 as feared.

Kupillas said the commissioners were able to save &

36;1 million to put into the rainy-day fund with the committee's recommendation.

Rather than deal with a &

36;2 million problem next year, we've dealt with half of that, she said.

We'll hold together a basic safety net of services, which is real important.

Gilmour said there was no way to feel good about this budget.

It's a terrible time for all the agencies, he said. There's no good answers.

He said he was not happy about the decision to cut funding for the historical society.

We're reducing their budget below sustainability, he said.

Because the Legislature remains in session, county officials don't know the status of state funding for health and human services or parole and probation. Budgets for those departments won't be finalized until the legislative session ends, at which time the board will reconvene to complete the budget.

the numbers

Spending amounts approved Thursday, by department, from Jackson County's general fund (last year's figure is in parentheses):

County clerk ' &

36;1,553,871 (&

36;1,590,475)

District attorney ' &

36;3,211,853 (&

36;3,106,019)

Library ' &

36;7 million (&

36;6,967,899)

Roads, parks and planning ' &

36;4,662,055 (&

36;4,457,318)

Sheriff ' &

36;19,008,788 (&

36;18,370,513)

Community justice ' &

36;10,246,426 (&

36;10,031,571)