Levy shortage puts FC library in danger

FALLS CITY -- The Wagner Community Library in Falls City could be in danger of losing its funding.

FALLS CITY -- The Wagner Community Library in Falls City could be in danger of losing its funding.

The Falls City School District is considering ending its support for the library -- it pays for staffing and operations -- after discovering it will be losing money on its local option levy due to compression beginning this year.

The school district uses funding from the voter-approved local option levy to support the library, in addition to other programs. Fall City, through the Wagner Trust Fund, helps pay for supplies and improvements.

Compression occurs when taxes exceed constitutionally set tax limits, according to the Oregon Department of Revenue. Education taxes are limited to $10 per $1,000 of real market value on properties. If taxes in that category exceed that limitation on a property, they are reduced until the limit is reached. Local option levies are compressed first.

Falls City School District Superintendent Pat Evenson-Brady said via email Friday the district stands to lose $17,890 to compression this school year and $20,287 in 2013-14.

She said the board considered a number of cost saving measures, cutting library funding among them, at a Dec. 8 work session. No decisions were made, but the board decided to inform the city that eliminating library funding was on the table.

"The proposal was to reduce the library staffing from .75 full-time equivalent (FTE) to .25 FTE -- cutting the district payment for the public library hours," Evenson-Brady said.

The district would still pay for the .25 position for an in-school librarian.

The cuts, if approved, would go into effect at the beginning of 2013-14 and save the district $26,942.

The board could make a decision on the cost saving proposals as soon as its next meeting, which is scheduled for Jan. 28. A meeting scheduled Tuesday night was canceled.

Word of the possible loss of funding -- and potential closure of the library -- spread through the town last week.

Citizens expressed their concerns about losing the library at Thursday's Falls City Council meeting.

Holly Kraus, Wagner's librarian, said she has contacted the Oregon State Library, which will send a representative to assess the situation and see what can be done to keep the library open.

Holly Kraus

Kraus said people do more at the library than simply check out books. She said it's a resource for unemployed people searching for a job or students who don't have access to a computer or Internet at home.

"We have a storytime for the little ones through 3 years old," she said. "These kids are getting exposed to books."

Mayor Amy Houghtaling said she and City Administrator Amber Mathiesen learned of the possible cut Dec. 10. She said the city would create a subcommittee of council members, school district representatives and citizens to determine what can be done to prevent a library closure.

"We aren't going to lay down and let it go," she said. "We are going to put our minds together and see if there is anything we can do and how quickly we can get it done."

To further emphasize the gravity of the situation, Kraus added that without a library in town, Falls City residents would have to pay $50 annually to use libraries in other cities.

"People here can't afford $50 a year to be able use the library in Dallas or in Monmouth or wherever," Kraus said. "I'm just willing to see what I can do to help to make sure there is a library in this town because we so need it."

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