Jackson and Josephine County aren’t in a great way right now. Jackson County’s 15 public libraries will remain closed, while Josephine County will cut its sheriff’s department staff in half and its jail beds down from 140 to 30.
Wikipedia, that bastion of authoritative, accurate information, lists Oregon as the western state with the lowest taxes per person. (The footnote is dubious, but like any good lazy researcher, I’m taking it as gospel!)
Here’s the quick and dirty summary: Oregon used to depend heavily upon federal timber revenue. Because timber revenues have been steadily declining over the years (yes, in part due to environmental restrictions), in 2000 Congress signed the Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act, which was designed to federally assist rural states and counties “which have been impacted by the ongoing reduction in receipts primarily due to lower timber harvest levels on Federal lands.” (This is from the USDA Forest Service.) According to the Trib, the Act was pumping $23 million into Oregon counties annually.
I just tried to find some info on the libraries, and found the extremely depressing JCLS homepage.
I really need to stop thinking about this.
Basically, Jackson county built a shitload of new shiny libraries in the past few years. They were arguably bigger than they needed to be (though they were built largely because of valid space concerns about the old branches) and it seems no one took operating budgets (or a lack thereof) into account. As such, when the RSCSDA ran out, the county had no choice but to shut down the libraries, because even without the libraries in the picture Jackson County was still facing huge budget shortages for basic community services. Yesterday residents voted on a proposed tax levy, which would temporarily increase property taxes to reopen the libraries.
Opponents of the levy seem to think that its failure will force county commissioners to come up with another way to fund the library. But guess what, jackasses? PUBLIC LIBRARIES DEPEND ON PUBLIC REVENUES.