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Since You Asked

Why, if the rest of the libraries are closed in the entire county, is Phoenix building a new library where the old City Hall used to be? It seems kind of inappropriate at best, and where is the funding coming from?

— Jessica M. Medford

It does seem a little crazy, Jessica, but the world works in ways that are rarely as simple as we would like them to be.

It's important to understand that the money to build the libraries and the money to operate them come from two VERY different sources. Back in 2000, voters approved a $38.9 million bond issue to rebuild or remodel 14 libraries across Jackson County. Investors bought the bonds, and the county is legally required to do what the bonds were sold to pay for.

Money to pay the library staff and the electric bills and everything else comes from the county's annual operating budget. Years ago, much of that money came from the sale of timber on federal land once owned by a long bankrupt railroad. The amount of money fluctuated with the lumber market. During a big recession in the early '80s Jackson County had to eliminate hundreds of jobs.

When timber harvests dropped in the early 1990s, Congress passed a law to continue the payments at a set level. Now, with American soldiers in Iraq and huge budget deficits, Congress is less willing to send $23 million to Jackson County every year.

A bill in Congress to extend the payments is tied to funding for the Iraq war that President Bush has said he will veto.

Library supporters will be asking voters on May 15 to approve a three-year tax increase to keep the libraries open.

youasked@mailtribune.com