Ashland library levy heads to ballot

It's official: A measure to fund the Ashland Public Library is headed to the Sept. 18 ballot.

The final ballot language for the proposed tax levy was due at the city recorder's office by July 6 to meet a series of deadlines to place the levy on the September ballot.

On Wednesday night, an Ashland City Council majority approved the ballot language.

The City of Ashland will ask voters to approve a property tax measure of up to 58 cents per $1,000 in assessed value.

The owner of a single-family home assessed at $207,000 &

the average price of a home in Ashland &

would pay $120 per year for the two-year levy. Assessed values are usually significantly lower than market values because of state property tax limitations.

The Ashland property tax would raise an estimated $1,032,000 each year.

For $1,005,000, the Ashland Public Library could open for 40 hours a week with professional staff, offer Internet access, maintain newspaper and magazine subscriptions, buy 400 new books per year and provide children's programs and reference services.

Another $40,000 would buy access to the Medford library's collection. An additional employee to handle an increased workload would cost $40,000 and new materials would cost $150,000.

Those added services could be paid for with levy funds not needed for base services and fees charged to nonresidents.

After talks with the state librarian, city officials have discovered that Ashland can charge nonresidents, who would not be paying the property tax, a fee for library cards, City Administrator Martha Bennett said.

"It's within the city's rights if the library is funded by a tax that is imposed based on the city limits," she said.

City officials had been uncertain whether they could charge nonresidents a fee. The city owns the library building, but Jackson County owns the materials inside.

If Ashland has the only open library in Jackson County, there could be an influx of users.

Douglas County, home to Roseburg, raised its out-of-county memberships to $50 in May to cope with a wave of nonresidents who traveled there, The Associated Press reported.

The Eugene library system charges nonresidents $80 for a card, according to the AP.

Bennett said city officials have not talked yet about what amount to charge nonresidents for library cards in Ashland.

All 15 branches in the Jackson County system, including the Ashland Public Library, closed on April 6 due to funding problems. Josephine County closed its libraries in May.

Because Jackson County's libraries closed first, some Jackson County residents traveled to Josephine County to try to check out books. However, with the Josephine County system already on curtailed hours with limited staffing, people who did not live in that county were not allowed to check out materials.

Levies that would have allowed the libraries to operate failed in May in both Jackson and Josephine counties.

However, more than 70 percent of Ashland voters were in favor of the Jackson County funding plan, raising hopes that Ashlanders will support a property tax increase here to reopen the Ashland Public Library.

The city would contract with the cash-strapped county to operate the library.

City officials plan to continue talks with Jackson County officials and others about finding a permanent funding method for the countywide system.

Meanwhile, the Ashland School District, city of Ashland, Friends of the Ashland Library, Oregon Community Foundation, laid off county library workers and volunteers have teamed up to open school district libraries this summer.

Only students enrolled in the school district can check out items, but there is a book exchange at Ashland Middle School for nonenrolled kids and adults.

Bellview Elementary School is open from 9 a.m. to — p.m. Mondays; Ashland Middle School is open from noon to 7 p.m. Tuesdays; Helman Elementary School is open from 9 a.m. to — p.m. Wednesdays; Ashland High School is open from noon to 7 p.m. Thursdays; and Walker Elementary School is open from 9 a.m. to — p.m. Fridays.

Story time begins at 10:30 a.m. on the days when an elementary school is open. "Babies in the Library" for babies and their caregivers is at Walker Elementary at 11:30 a.m. Fridays.

The school libraries will be open through Friday, Aug. 17.

Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or

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