PORTLAND -- April 15 was the deadline not only for federal and state taxes, but also for the Portland Arts Tax. But where does that money go? And how is it spent?
2013 was the first year for the new tax and nearly $8 million was generated.
The Arts Tax is controversial. It’s been challenged three different times in court. All three times, judges have tossed the challenges.
KGW followed the money, to find out how the Arts Tax is spent. What we found is music to your ears. First, the mayor’s spokesperson, Dana Haynes explained, “The arts tax goes into the schools first and then into the regional arts organizations.”
These six school districts get a cut of the funds: Centennial, Portland, Reynolds, Riverdale, David Douglas and Parkrose, along with the Regional Arts and Culture Council.
To get a closer look at how the money is spent, KGW went to Lynch View Elementary in the Centennial School District. Principal Jim Mangan said his art and music programs have expanded.
“We were able to go from a part time music teacher, actually a half time music teacher, to offering a full program in music education for elementary students,” Mangan said. All that came after a rough phase two years ago, when art and music classes were on the chopping block and programs were getting cut.
Now, those districts are expanding their programs and have hired about 70 additional art and music teachers. Stephanie Cerechino is one of them. This is her first year at Lynch View Elementary.
“Yes, that is where it’s going, your kids up on stage performing, your kids up learning music, your kids working with each other, that’s where your money has gone,” she said.
Her students went from having about 20 minutes a week in music class before the Arts Tax, to now putting on evening performances.
Haynes said this was money well spent. “The mayor believes there are certain things that keep kids in school. One of them is sports, one of them is after-school activities and one of them is arts and music,” he said.
But here’s the problem: Many Portlanders complained that paying the Arts Tax has been a hassle. The Mayor’s office assured that next year they hope paying the Arts Tax can be done through Turbo Tax.
In the meantime, tax payers can go online to pay the tax, or do it over the phone by calling the city at (503) 865-4ART (4278). It can also be paid in person at the office on Columbia Street in Portland. The fee is $35 for every Portland resident who makes more than $1,000 a year.