Funding gap forces library closures in Jackson County, Oregon

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Due to a US$23 million budget shortfall, all public libraries in Jackson County, Oregon are scheduled to close April 6. The U.S. Congress did not renew the Secure Rural Schools and Self-Determination Act, which replaces property tax revenues with revenue sharing from timber harvests. Jackson County used the revenue to pay for libraries and sherriff's patrols. Voters rejected a property tax increase last November. A similar increase will appear on the May ballot; such increases must pass a double-majority vote: a majority of county voters must turn out for the election, and a majority of those must support the increase.

Supporters hope the measure will pass this time. "Many people didn't believe we were going to close libraries." said County Commissioner C.W. Smith. The Ashland City Council has said it would find a funding solution to keep their branch of the library open; other cities have not made similar statements. Some alternative funding solutions, such as charging subscription fees, have been considered. However, charging fees for access to libraries is illegal in Oregon.

Jackson County is located in Southern Oregon, and has a population of 181,000. The Jackson County Library System consists of 15 branches.

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