Pamplin Media Group – Johnson City’s 540 residents consider joining library system

Manufactured-home park between Milwaukie and Gladstone is last holdout for Clackamas County library services.

Almost everyone has access to free materials in Clackamas County libraries, everyone except for Johnson City’s approximately 540 people who live in a manufactured-home park between Milwaukie and Gladstone.

Johnson City is an anomaly in other ways. Incorporated by a 49-to-10 vote in 1970, Johnson City’s election to become a city came just before the effective date of a state law to prevent a proliferation of tiny cities.

Johnson City voters are facing another important choice in the upcoming November election. If they decide to annex into the Clackamas County Library District, Johnson City residents will have access to the books, movies, music and other materials for all ages and interests available countywide.

There’s generally no charge for a Clackamas County library card. But for library patrons who live outside the county’s library’s district, including Johnson City, the annual fee for a library card is $95. This fee is waived for residents of Multnomah, Washington and Hood River county library districts, as well as Camas or the Fort Vancouver, Washington, library districts.

Johnson City is the last holdout in joining the Clackamas County Library District formed in 2009. Damascus and Tualatin did not participate in the initial vote of citizens to create the countywide library district, but these cities annexed into the district in 2010.

Johnson City resident Tara Schoffstall, who is running for a seat on the City Council in November, recently led a petition drive to gather signatures in favor of annexing the city into the library district. Needing only 55 signatures to put the issue on the ballot, Schoffstall and other members of the Johnson City Tenant Collective collected 78 signatures, and 70 were verified by county officials to match the signature on record at the elections office.

Schoffstall was hoping that the City Council would respond to the petition by voting on the spot to join the library district. Instead, the councilors on Aug. 2 voted to “reject” the petition, saying they wanted to send it to the November ballot for consideration by all voters.

Johnson City residents would pay substantially less for county library services under the proposal, although there’s some uncertainty over the exact amount. If the measure is approved, the Voters Pamphlet says that average households in Johnson City will pay an additional $22.77 annually in property taxes, which was an estimate that petitioners generated based on average home prices.

With more time to research the assessed values ​​of Johnson City homes, Schoffstall discovered that 76% of residents would pay $15 or less in additional property taxes, and 92% will pay $20 or less if the measure is approved.

Schoffstall noted that everyone who receives a property tax notice would end up paying the library tax.

“Houses here that are valued over $19K pay property tax; those below that pay nothing,” Schoffstall said.

Petitioners said that the costs could include about $12.96 in rent increases annually, based on the approximately $9 million in assessed value, assuming that the landlord passes along all these costs.

Johnson City’s land is owned by Brian and Kevin Johnson through Johnson Mobile Park Inc., which rents the land to manufactured homeowners. Brian Johnson declined to comment for this news article.

Schoffstall said that the landlord has been raising monthly rents by $20-$58 each year, which is within the maximum allowed by state law. Based on the annual increases since 2015, Schoffstall predicts that next year’s increase will easily exceed the additional property taxes for library services to be paid by the landlord.

“We will get a huge rent raise. Every year we do. But it will not be because of the library tax,” Schoffstall said.

Johnson City’s city recorder declined to comment for this story.

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