Library-less summer?

It looks to be a summer, or part of it anyway, without library books despite city officials' efforts to reopen the Ashland Public Library.

On Thursday night, members of the Ashland Citizens Budget Committee reviewed a proposal to ask city voters in September to approve a $1,005,000 annual levy to run the Ashland library for two years. The soonest the library could reopen would be in mid-October.

The levy would cost 58 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, or $145 per year for the owner of a home assessed at $250,000.

The committee will meet again at 6 p.m. on Monday in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St., to continue discussing the issue.

City officials are researching options for the library here after Jackson County voters rejected a levy to fund all 15 libraries in the county system. That levy would have cost 66 cents per $1,000 in assessed value.

In Ashland, 73 percent of voters approved the county-wide plan.

Talent and Pinehurst were the only other communities where majorities voted for the county levy, Ashland city officials said.

"The Ashland public sent a very loud and clear message," Mayor John Morrison said.

The Citizens Budget Committee also looked at a funding method that could reopen the Ashland library sooner, possibly as early as July.

The committee could authorize raising property taxes by 32 cents per $1,000 in assessed value without voters' approval. But that would nearly max out the city's ability to raise property taxes without a vote and would remove a financial safety net.

The city also would add a utility bill charge of about $80 per year for the average household to generate enough money to run the library. Low-income households could get utility bill assistance. In 2006, the city tried to add a utility charge to fund Ashland Fiber Network debt. The council reversed its decision due to public outrage over the proposed $7.50 per month flat fee increase.

Several members of the budget committee, which is made up of residents and Ashland City Council members, seemed reluctant to push Ashland to its property tax ceiling.

"That's the city's cushion," said Councilor Kate Jackson.

But Councilor Eric Navickas said he favored raising property taxes by 32 cents per $1,000, although he would like a different additional funding source than a charge on utility bills.

Navickas said youths would be without books all summer, librarians would find jobs elsewhere and businesses could settle in other cities with libraries if Ashland's library stays shuttered until fall.

Budget committee members asked City Administrator Martha Bennett to talk to Ashland School District officials before the Monday night meeting to see if schools could host summer reading programs if the library can't reopen until October.

Jackson County Library Foundation Executive Director Jim Olney said his nonprofit raises $100,000 to $150,000 to fund programs throughout the county. He said the foundation would be willing to raise money for summer reading programs, Babies in the Library and storytelling if Ashland reopens its library.

Besides looking at how to fund the library, city officials are grappling with a big unknown &

just how many out-of-town residents will descend on Ashland if it has the only open library in Jackson and Josephine County.

Jackson County libraries closed in April and Josephine County libraries closed this week after a levy failed there on Tuesday.

The city of Eugene runs a municipal library and charges non-residents about $80 per year for a library card, Ashland officials said.

Bennett said Ashland officials believe they should be able to charge non-residents a library card fee to check out materials since they would not be paying property taxes to keep the branch here open. But she said county officials argue that Ashland cannot charge non-residents because all county residents paid for books and materials through their taxes.

Ashland owns its library building, but the county owns the materials inside.

Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or To post an on-line comment, visit .

Share This Story