City funds summer reading program

The Ashland School District and city government are teaming up to provide a summer reading program in school libraries.

Under a proposed plan, the school district's middle school, high school and three elementary schools would each be open one day per week from 9 a.m. until — p.m.

That would keep one school library open on a rotating basis Monday through Friday.

Only students who are enrolled in the Ashland School District would be allowed to check out books.

Preschoolers, home schooled students and other community members could look at materials in the school libraries. School officials are worried that school library collections would be depleted if students who are not enrolled check out materials.

On Monday night, the Ashland Citizens Budget Committee &

made up of the Ashland City Council and residents &

authorized increasing taxes by up to one penny per $1,000 of assessed property value to raise $17,800 for the summer reading program in school libraries.

That will cost $2.50 for the owner of a home assessed at $250,000. Assessed values are usually significantly lower than market values.

The city and school district can offer the summer reading program at a low cost by using support staff rather than certified librarians. The staffing cost is about $5,800, Superintendent Juli Di Chiro estimated.

The budget committee authorized additional money to pay for materials.

"We've ensured that young people have a reading program," Mayor John Morrison said.

In addition to allocating money for the stopgap summer reading program, the budget committee authorized the city council to place a levy on the September ballot that would cost up to 58 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value, or $145 for the owner of a home assessed at $250,000.

If Ashland voters approve that levy, the Ashland Public Library would reopen by mid-October.

On April 6, 15 libraries &

including the Ashland branch &

closed in the Jackson County library system because of a loss of federal funding. Earlier this month, county voters rejected a library system funding levy that would have cost 66 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value.

However, 73 percent of Ashland voters supported the failed county levy.

If Ashland voters continue their historic support for libraries and approve the Ashland Public Library-only funding levy in September, the branch would be open 40 hours a week and would continue to offer materials and Internet access.

City officials are still determining whether they can charge non-residents a fee for using the library that would be kept open with Ashland property tax dollars.

The city owns the library building, but Jackson County owns the materials inside.

Councilor Eric Navickas argued that the budget committee should raise property taxes by 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value without going to voters. That could have allowed the Ashland library to reopen in July and then to continue operations if voters approved the 58 cents per $1,000 levy in September.

Navickas said the bridge funding would have allowed all community members to check out books and would have kept some library staff members working.

Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or

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