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Jackson County libraries could close again

 Posted: 11:55 AM June 04, 2013

Jackson County libraries, including the branch in Ashland, face closure if the county cannot come up with new funding.

County Commissioner Don Skundrick brought that message to Ashland City Councilors during a special briefing Monday night.

Without additional revenues, all library branches except the Medford branch would close in the fiscal year that begins in July 2014, Skundrick said.

The Medford branch would then close in the fiscal year that starts in July 2015, he said.

The county is suffering from a phase-out of federal payments that helped cover losses from falling federal timber revenues that are shared with counties.

Jackson County library supporters could try to put a levy on the ballot to fund the library system, but county voters defeated previous levy attempts in 2006 and 2007.

Jackson County libraries closed in April 2007, then re-opened late that year after federal payments were extended.

To save money, the library system operates with reduced hours and under the management of Maryland-based Library Systems and Services.

Ashland has a supplemental levy that pays for extra services and hours of operation at the Ashland library. That levy costs the owner of a home assessed at $245,000 — the median in Ashland — an extra $46.55 per year in property taxes.

To indirectly spare the library system from closure, Skundrick is proposing a jail fee of $84 per year for each household and building in the county.

That would raise $7 million for the Jackson County Jail, freeing up money for other county services, such as the library, he said.

The county is doing a survey to gauge whether a jail fee has any support. If it does, the fee could go before voters in November.

— Vickie Aldous

Read more in Wednesday's paper.

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