MEDFORD, Ore. – Supporters of a ballot measure to help fund Jackson County Libraries were out making a last-minute push for votes Tuesday night.
Measure 15-122 would create a permanent library taxing district and create a five-person board to oversee library funding. The board could impose a tax of up to 60 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to keep libraries open and increase hours and programs. If passed, libraries would no longer be under the supervision of Jackson County Commissioners.
“That has been our desire from day one. To ensure that the libraries are not subject to the vagaries of year-to-year budgeting from the county,” said Maureen Swift, with Friends of the Medford Library. “This gives us our own secure funding source and will enable us to keep the libraries open.”
The board could choose to tax any amount up to the 60 cents per $1,000. Swift said it is unlikely the board would tax the full amount, and said a smaller amount is still enough to keep all 15 branches open with some expanded hours. It would also allow funds to be put into reserves, she said.
Jackson County Commissioners have said if the measure does not pass, 14 branches would close, with only the Medford branch remaining open. If no additional funding is found by 2015, the Medford branch would close as well.
In 2007, all 15 libraries were temporarily closed because of budget cuts, and voters rejected a tax levy to keep them open. The branches reopened later that year when additional funding was made available, and have been operating with reduced hours and services ever since.