Library levy renewal

Ashland Public Library supporters haven't mounted a big campaign to promote a November ballot measure that would renew a levy that boosts library hours and services.

Now they are finding that some voters are confused about the measure. Some voters think it's for a new levy that would increase property taxes, not an extension of the existing one.

"I'm really hopeful voters will continue to demonstrate their strong support for the library. It's very much needed," said Pam Vavra, the former chair of Ashland's Citizen Library Advisory Ad Hoc Committee. "I hope they understand it's not a new levy. It's a continuation of the current one."

Back in September 2007, Ashland voters approved a two-year property tax levy to pay for library services because of reduced Jackson County funding. The levy doesn't expire until 2009, but the library committee recommended seeking renewal of the levy a year early.

That way, library backers won't have to get a majority of voters to come out and vote in a year without a presidential election. Oregon's so-called "double majority" law requires that a majority of voters turn out to vote, and that a majority of those voters approve a funding levy in order for it to pass.

The library levy renewal also isn't competing this year with any other property tax levies in the city. Voters rejected construction of a new $5.5 million Fire Station No. 2 on Ashland Street in 2006. The city may seek approval of a scaled-down project to replace the cramped fire station in the future.

The Ashland City Council is scheduled to review a city facilities master plan in November, but until then, no one knows if or when the city will try again to win voter approval for the fire station replacement, said Ashland Fire & Rescue Chief Keith Woodley.

The library levy renewal measure on the Nov. 4 ballot would cost up to 21 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value, or $44.73 per year for the owner of a home at the average assessed value of $213,000 in Ashland.

Assessed values are significantly lower than market values because of state property tax limitations.

When voters first approved the levy in September 2007, the city levied 21 cents per $1,000 in assessed value to add 16 hours per week to library operations — boosting open hours to 40 per week — and to add other services. The city is levying 13 cents per $1,000 in assessed value this fiscal year and will use leftover funds from the first fiscal year to keep hours and services the same. Money was left over because the library was closed for several months and only reopened in October 2007 due to a Jackson County funding crisis.

The library levy allowed the Ashland Public Library to add the equivalent of three full-time workers. It also funds extra hours and programs that serve kids and house-bound residents, branch manager Amy Blossom said.

Most other libraries in the county are open only 24 hours per week because of limited county funding.

Blossom said she has heard some confusion about the library levy renewal.

"People are thinking this is to add on to what we have, rather than just continuing it," Blossom said.

The library is able to have more programs in schools and to host three story times each week for kids. Volunteers also work with library staff to deliver materials to people who can't come to the library, she said.

Reference librarian Amy Kinard, who works with the volunteers, said many senior citizens and disabled people enjoy the delivery service. The library sends out regular books, large-print editions, audio books and other materials.

Jackson County, which doesn't have extra funding, has had to start mailing out materials to house-bound residents, while Ashland has been able to keep the person-to-person deliveries, Kinard said.

She said many of the residents, especially the senior citizens, have great stories about their lives that they tell to the people who deliver books.

"It is an added thing to see a person and to get a visit. That's quite important to some people," Kinard said.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or

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