Medford library tax levy discussed

MEDFORD — Medford voters in 2008 could see a property tax proposal to boost the Medford library's operating hours from 24 to 40 per week.

The City Council in a study session Thursday pitched questions to Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan and representatives from Library Systems and Services LLC, the company managing all 15 branches.

Topping the list of council ideas is asking taxpayers for a levy of 6 cents per $1,000 of assessed value or $16 per year on a house assessed at $250,000 (assessed value is typically about half the actual market value).

The money would generate $320,000 annually to fund the additional 16 weekly hours.

Councilman Jason Anderson wanted assurance that the overhead cost of the Central Library branch, which is responsible for a lot of the county library system's administrative work, is dispersed among all branches.

Jordan said Medford pays for only its share of countywide operations.

"Every branch pays for those costs regardless of where the function happens," he said.

Mayor Gary Wheeler said the council will likely hold a public hearing in January, after the libraries have been running a few months. Statistics will be available and the council can discuss whether there's a need for more hours, and if so, what the options are for funding them.

Prior to the library's closure in April, it was open 46 hours per week, almost double the current service. Wednesday's opening day at the Central Library saw more than 1,500 patrons and 4,287 items checked out.

City Manager Mike Dyal asked if the library hours of operation were appropriate. The library is open noon to 7 p.m. Mondays, noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, then closed Thursdays and Fridays and open noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

"Is it really beneficial to users?" he said. "How are the users ever going to be able to remember that schedule?"

Jordan said LSSI and library staff determined the hours based on the days and times there have been the most patrons.

"We matched the usage with the hours," he said. "We tried to build something that looked at the way people use the library system."

Frank Pezzanite, LSSI's chief executive officer, said they'll evaluate the hours and consider changes in 90 days.

"It's not in concrete," he said.

Both city and county officials have complained numerous times in the past several months about the lack of communication between the two jurisdictions on the subject of the Medford library.

"We haven't done the very best job we can do (communicating) and I take some personal responsibility for that," said Jordan.

Following the meeting Mayor Wheeler said he was pleased with the presentation and felt his concerns were addressed. In considering a library levy, the city also has to take into account its other needs, such as funding for new fire stations, he said.

"It's a matter of how we use our resources to our best advantage," he said.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail

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