So much for the Arts Tax



It's $35, you don't have to pay it if you can't afford to, and you don't even live in Oregon (supposedly.) So don't take this the wrong way but what the fuck do you care? Good riddance.


I still need to pay mine. I will, just forgot about it this tax season and found it in my desk the other day. I'm on the fence though. I support the arts, my wife is an artist, I have friends who are teachers, and reasonably 35 dollars is less than I spend on booze per week. On the other hand, the whole arts tax thing was pitched and voted in on the foundation that it was going to benefit children, the schools, and non-profits. Yet all I see is teachers still complaining about having no supply funding, teachers being forced into part time positions because schools can't afford a full-time art/music/theater teacher, and yet every new construction development in this city seems to double as an art installation that subsequently just gets pissed on, shit on, and tagged. I'm not aware of what the OP is saying (the funds going to those enterprises) but if that information is factual that's pretty upsetting. I'd rather write a check for $35 and hand it directly to a school or arts teacher.


It's a poorly worded law for sure but the premise that this tax is somehow funneled to private developers is not really supported by anything that's been reported. I'd rather live in a place with an overfunded opera than a place that doesn't have opera at all, which I suspect OP is hailing from. Regrettably a lack of control over where our tax dollars go extends way beyond this arts tax.


Good points Someguy. I did a hint of research. I think this post is a response to a Mercury article from yesterday (see Blogtown news by Blair Stenvick 4/15/19). Before diving into that lets first establish what the Arts Tax charter actually states.

According to the Charter, the NET funds shall be distributed to school districts for the hiring of arts teachers for the grades of K-5. I capitalize NET just to point out that the proceeds of the Arts Tax pay for the administrative costs of imposing that tax before it is distributed. The Distribution sizes are based on a ratio of one teacher per 500 students, and in cases the school has less than 500, it is assessed on a pro rata basis. After those disbursements have been made, the remaining funds are to be provided to the RACC (Regional Arts & Culture Council) who then distribute as follows: no less than 5% as grant money to support programs and non-profits which support "high-quality" art experiences for Portland K-12 students as well as arts access to Portland residents, and up to 95% in grants to support non-profit art organizations.

So the issue this I/A and OP is pointing out, per the article published by the Mercury which also cites an earlier Spring Arts issue penned by editor Alex Zielinski, is that 57% of the funds entrusted to the RACC were being given to the cities 5-largest art nonprofits: Portland Art Museum, Oregon Symphony, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Portland Opera, and Portland Center Stage. I haven't spent a lot of time on this, but I can tell you I haven't been able to duplicate the research to support the claim of 57% - but I'd venture to say Alex of the Mercury probably did their homework and knowing the RACC, it's probably accurate. More support in that direction is the fact that the city has amended (again) the distribution map, and is now telling the RACC to focus on serving underrepresented communities (LGBTQIA, POC's, disabled, etc) beginning in 2020.

Something I personally take issue with is the amount that's being provided to the RACC. The original charter states the funds are to be distributed to K-5 schools, and the remainder to the RACC for distribution. Those K-5 figures are based on a ratio of one teacher per 500 students. The RACC already receives city funding, and receives grant money from other channels, not to mention the occasional (albeit irregular) donation. I'm surprised that in the charter, they focus more on defining the percentages for the RACC distributions, which should only be (reasonably in my opinion) a fraction of the overall funds. One teacher per 500 students is not what I would consider funding public school arts education, especially when it's limited to K-5. Of more issue I'd say is the funding of 6-12, especially when the student populations are dumping into larger schools as they ascend (IE: several elementary schools dump into a couple middle schools, a couple middle schools dump into a high school). Take Roosevelt for example, who are so critically underfunded that during the rose parade they opt to simply have the coach ride in a golf cart with some streamers and a dozen cheerleaders (Rose Parade two years ago). If anything, the charter should define something that says one teacher per 250 students for K-12, with a waiver option depending on the programs offered (or not offered) at the school. Only then are the remaining funds provided to the RACC. That's just my personal opinion. Either way, I think that's where the OP was coming from on it. Still, if they aren't even here I'm unsure why they're so passionate about it.