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Impact of county library district uncertain in Ashland

The impact of a new countywide library district on the Ashland library and a city tax that has augmented operating hours will depend largely on the decisions of the district's new board and the Ashland City Council.

On May 20, Jackson County voters approved a tax rate of up to 60 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value to fund the new library district.

Libraries have been operating with limited hours since 2007, although Ashland and other communities have paid extra to boost their branch hours.

Ashland voters previously approved paying up to 21 cents per $1,000 in assessed value to increase weekly library operations from 24 hours to 40. At present, 19 cents of the 21 cents is levied.

The passage of the library district does not mean Ashland's supplemental property tax will disappear.

The newly elected library district board of directors may not choose to levy the full 60 cents per $1,000 in assessed value for the district.

If the board levied 44 cents per $1,000, that would cover 24 hours of operations each week in Ashland, according to county figures.

"If it's only 24 hours, we need to make the decision whether to assess Ashland's local option levy," said City Administrator Dave Kanner.

Ashland City Council would make that decision, he said.

If the library district board levied about 50 cents per $1,000, that would be equivalent to county funding that has paid for basic library services plus supplemental funding provided by communities buying extra hours, according to county figures.

That 50 cents per $1,000 would not lift all branch libraries to 40 hours per week, however.

While several communities have provided supplemental funding, others have not. The main Medford branch is open just 24 hours per week using baseline funding from the county.

Ashland must certify its property tax rate by June 30 — two weeks before the library district board's July 15 deadline to certify a district tax rate, according to Kanner and Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan.

Kanner said Ashland may ask for an extension to certify its property tax rate by Sept. 30, because so many library district details have yet to be determined.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.