PORTLAND – There is another change to the voter approved arts tax, exempting those who live on Social Security or government retirement funds.
Mayor Charlie Hales said the changes that need to be made “puts us in a bind," trying to meet all the goals of the tax.
In March, Hales and city commissioners voted unanimously to exclude anyone earning $1,000 or less annually from paying the $35 arts tax.
Voters approved the arts tax by more than 60-percent, to raise $12 million for arts education in elementary schools and neighborhood arts programs. The tax is supposed to pay for 70 arts teachers for local schools.
A leading advocate for the arts tax says the changes may be confusing, but are important to keep the tax form being a burden to low income citizens.
“When you do something brand new there will be court challenges, there will be push back, there will be revisions and tweaks that are necessary. And we can’t let that slow us down as we advocate for access to the arts in our city,” said Jessica Jarratt Miller.
Miller is the Executive Director of Creative Advocacy Network, which spearheaded the arts tax. It was former Mayor Sam Adams and staff that put the original plan together.
Taxpayer advocate Jason Williams thinks it’s been a bad plan from the beginning, and it’s not getting any better.
"That’s fine with me if they want to get rid of this tax; it’s a mess, it keeps getting worse by the month. Maybe it’s time for this tax to go,” said Williams.
Miller said voters approved the arts tax by 62-percent last year, and there is still strong support for it, despite the challenges implementing it.
So far, the city has collected $4.25 million in tax revenue, and the deadline to pay is May 15.
If you want information about the exclusions for paying the arts tax, here is a link to the city’s information.