Arts Tax: ‘It funds me, it funds my salary’

Portland Arts Tax due by April 15

Kathy Wray said the Arts Tax funds her music class at Cherry Park Elementary School (KOIN 6 News)
Kathy Wray said the Arts Tax funds her music class at Cherry Park Elementary School (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Portlanders voted for the Arts Tax in 2012 — and now, officials with the Portland Revenue Bureau told KOIN 6 News, not everyone is paying.

“It funds me, it funds my salary,” music teacher Kathy Wray told KOIN 6 News. Wray’s first grade music class at Cherry Park Elementary School depends on the Portland Arts Tax.

Taxpayers are responsible for paying the $35 Arts Tax every year — the proceeds fund arts programs in schools and in the community. About $8.5 million is raised through the tax annually, and about $7.5 million goes directly to the arts.

But, according to Portland Revenue Director Thomas Lannom, not everyone is paying.

“Last year we hit about 68% and that number is still climbing,” Lannom said. “The first year we hit 71% and those numbers both will continue to climb.”

Lannom told KOIN 6 News if people don’t pay the tax by April 15, they will incur a $15 penalty. Six months later, they’ll be charged an additional $20.

“And then if someone still doesn’t respond, say for three or four tax years, or if the bill gets to be $200 or even $300, then we’ll start to look at some collection agencies,” Lannom said.

While Portland Public Schools gets about half the money, other districts including David Douglas, Centennial, Reynolds and Parkrose also get a significant amount of money through the Arts Tax. Nearly $900,000 goes to the Regional Arts & Culture Council for distribution to community-based arts programs.

“It’s what we do best at helping kids be creative,” Wray said. “It’s what makes us human.”

You can pay the tax online by clicking here. Taxpayers who haven’t paid by March 2 will get an Arts Tax form in the mail.

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