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AmandaPreusse
Dr.JavierCardozaKon
UNST108K
5February2016
PortlandArtsTax(Measure26146)
Notmanypeopleenjoypayingtaxes,butinmostcasesthemoneypaidbenefitsimportant
programsandorganizations.Addingnewtaxescanbepotentiallycontroversial,aswasthe
additionoftheartstaxinPortlandbackin2012.Thetaxhasbeeninplaceeveryyearsincethen,
andismostlikelygoingtocontinueforsometime,evenwithstrongopposition.Thispaperwill
exploreboththepositiveandnegativeeffectsoftheadditionofthistax,whattheresultshave
beeninpreviousyears,andwherethefundinggoeswhentaxpayerspaythistax.Itwillexplore
thecurrentartprogramsinPortlandandhowthearttaxhasmadeanimpactinareassuchascost,
allocationoffunds,andtheadditionofnewprogramsandteachers.
ThearttaxwasfirstputintoplaceinPortlandintheyear2012.Thetaxis$35andis
requiredtobepaidbyanyresidentinthecityofPortland(includingpartsofMultnomah,
Clackamas,andWashingtoncounty)whomakesatleast$1000ayear,withonlyafew
exceptionsthathavebeenaddedsincethetaxstarted(Schmidt,
PortlandArtsTax:Voters
ApproveMeasure26146toPayforArtsTeachers,Organizations")
.
TheCityofPortland
collectsthetaxandadministersthefunds,withoversightprovidedbyacitizenadvisory
committee(ArtTaxFAQ).
ThenetrevenuefromthetaxisdispersedbetweensixPortland
schooldistrictsandtheRegionalArts&CultureCouncil(RACC).Themoneyismeanttohelp

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artsandmusicteachersforK5studentsandartprogramscitywide.
Thetaxwasoriginally
designedtopayforabout70newartandmusicteachersusing$12milliondollarsofthefunds,
while$4millionwassupposedtogotoartorganizationsthroughgrantsfromtheRACC
(Schmidt).Inthefirstseveralyearsofthetax,thefundshavenotquitereached$16million,
sincetherehasnotbeenfullparticipationinpayingthetax.Thetaxhasbeenaveragingaround
$9.5millionperyear(ArtsTaxFAQ).
Eventhoughthenumbershavenotreachedthe
projectedamount,themoneythathasbeencollectedhasbenefitedseveralschoolsandlocal
artistsandnonprofitorganizations.
Theideaofthetaxfirstcameaboutin
thespringof2009,following22monthsof
conversationswithmorethan1,500citizens(ArtsTaxFAQ).TheRegionalArts&Culture
CouncilandPortlandCityCommissioner,SamAdams,publishedanewCreativeActionPlanfor
thePortlandMetropolitanregion.Thisplan,titledActforArt,establishedanumberofgoals
forartsandcultureintheregion,withthemostimportantbeingadedicatedfundingmechanism
tosupportartseducationandartsaccess(ArtsTaxFAQ).Aneworganization,calledthe
CreativeAdvocacyNetwork(CAN),wasestablishedtomakethisgoalareality,andin2012
CANfocuseditseffortsontheCityofPortlandandlaunchedtheSchools&ArtsTogether
campaigntosupportballotmeasure26146.OnNovember6th,2012,62%ofvotersapproved
themeasure,officiallyestablishingPortlandsArtsEducationandAccessFund(AEAF),more
commonlyknownastheartstax(ArtsTaxFAQ).
TheOregoniangoesintodetailsinseveralarticlesregardingthetax,andtheArts
OversightCommitteeprovidesafullreportonthetax.TheOregonianreports,
Accordingtothe

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mostrecentfigures,schoolsreceived$6.7millionfromtheartstaxinthefirstyear.The
RegionalArts&CultureCounciltookin$200,000,accordingtothereport,andanother
$125,000isontheway(Theen,
"PortlandArtsTax:Controversial$35IncomeTaxNeeds
'review,'Refinement,PotentialChanges,CitizenGroupSays"
).Themoneyfortheschool
districtswasoriginallymeanttoaddtothenumberofexistingcertifiedartsandmusicteachers
withoutcreatingfinancialproblemsforthedistrict.Becausethiswasnotclearlyspecifiedto
schools,someofthefundswereusedforotheralternativepurposessuchasfieldtripsandart
supplies.Thetaxmoneyhasalsobeenusedtoretaincurrentartsteacherswhowouldhave
otherwisebeenlaidoff.Theidealamountofteachersintheschooldistrictisoneteacherfor
every500elementaryschoolstudents,andthetaxisdesignedtomakesurethateachschoolin
thedistricthasatleastoneartsteacher(Theen).Therestofthefundscanthengotowhateverthe
schooldecidesinrelationtotheartsprograms.

Aftertheschoolsgettheirshare,theremainingarttaxmoneygoestotheRegionalArts
andCultureCouncil(RACC),whichdistributesgrantfundingtoseverallocalartsorganizations.
Accordingtothe2012ArtsOversightCommitteeReport,theamountallocatedtoRACCwill
"likelyhaveaminimalimpact"inartgroups'abilitiestoincreaseprogrammingandaccess(
"Arts
OversightCommitteeFirstAnnualReport"
).The2012totalalsofellshortofprojectedgoalsof

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providingoperationalsupporttoRACCgrantees.DespitetheRACCnotreceivingasmuchof
thefundingfromthetax,theydoreceivemanydonationsfromothersourcesthattheschool
districtsdonotget.TheRACCrecentlyreportedthatin2016theyhaveawarded
$665,595in
grantmoneythatisgoingtolocalartistsandartprojectswhoappliedforthegrant("RACC
Awards$665,595forArtisticProjectsin2016").ThereareyearlygrantsthattheRACCgives
outtosupportnonprofitartsorganizationsthatarebringingcultureandcreativitytolifefor
everyPortlandresident(ArtsTaxFAQ).It
isatoughbalance,todeterminehowmuchofthe
fundinggoestowardsschoolsandteachersandhowmuchgoestowardsthepublicartprograms
thattheRACCfunds,butitseemsasthoughtheRACCwantsthefundingtofirstgotoschools,
whiletheyreceivetheleftovers.Inanidealworld,bothsidescouldgetmorefundingwithoutany
sidestrugglingatall.
Themostcurrentinformationfortherevenuereceivedbythetaxisfortheyear2014.In
comparisontothefirstyear,thetaxhasbeenpaidbymoreresidents(thenumberisuptoaround
70%)(Tierney,WhereDoesthePortlandArtTaxGo?).KGWNewsreportsonthe2014
resultsinthearticletitled,WhereDoesthePortlandArtsTaxGo?Accordingtothisarticlethe
taxmadearevenueofmorethan$8.6millionin2014.Themoneywasdistributedamongthe
same6schooldistricts,withthelargestamountbeingawardedtoPortlandPublicSchools,since
itisthelargestinsize.Thefundssavedmanyteachersandaddedseveralnewteacherstotheart
andmusicdepartmentsatelementaryschools,justasitdidintheprevioustwoyears.The2015
taxisdueApril18,2016.Withthenumbersontherise,itseemslikelythatthetaxwillincrease
inparticipationandwillnotlikelybeupforarevoteinthenearfuture.

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Thepiechartaboverepresentsthetaxfundsthatareexpectedtobecollectedthisyear,
andhowthemoneywillbedistributed.Thetaxisexpectedtohavearevenueofapproximately
$10million.Around$6.7millionwillfirstbedividedbetweentheelementaryschools.The
RACCisthenprojectedtoreceive$2.8million,withthefundsbeingdistributedasfollows:$2.3
millionwillgotofundartsorganizationsthatprovideartsprogrammingandaccessforevery
PortlandresidentthroughRACCsgeneralsupportgrantsprogram,$125,000willbeusedfor
accessgrantstoschoolsandartsorganizationsthatprovideartsprogrammingforK12
studentsandunderservedresidents,and$285,000willgotowardscoordinatingartseducation
programsacrossPortlandssixschooldistricts.TheAEAFalsoprovidesdirectfunding(upto
3%ofnetrevenues)forRACCtocoordinateartseducationactivitiesacrossschooldistricts
(ArtsTaxFAQ).

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Asgoodastheartstaxmayseeminhelpingschoolsandotherartprograms,thereare
someissuesthatthetaxhasstruggledwith.Firstofall,thetaxhashadtobechangedoverthe
years,inregardstowhopaysthetaxandwhoisexempt.Thetaxfirststartedwitheveryonewho
was18andoverandearninganysortofincomehavingtopayit,butthenmovedtoasetincome
level.Withtheincomelevelatonly$1000,thismeantthatalotofpeoplewhocouldnot
necessarilyaffordtopaythetaxhadtopayit.Thisincludedteensmakingmoneybybabysitting
orjustdoingyardworkfortheneighbors.Inordertocontrolfordependentslikethesehavingto
paythetax,thestateaddedanexemptionin2013forteenagerswhowerelivingwithparents
whomakeenoughmoneytopaythetax.(Theen).Thestatealsoaddedanexemptionforresidents
livingbelowthepovertylevelhowever,bothoftheseexemptionsmustbefiledyearly(Theen).
Theotherissuethatcameupinpreviousyearswaswitholderadultsearninganincome
primarilymadeupofSocialSecuritybenefits.In2013,itwasdecidedthatthoseresidentswould
alsobeexemptfromthetax.ThisiswhattheCityofPortlandsaid:Qualifyingtaxpayers70
yearsoldorolder(orpermanentlydisabled)withonlynontaxableincome(forexample,Social
Security,FederalEmployeeRetirement,OregonPublicEmployeeRetirement,U.S.Treasury
interest,VAdisabilityincome)ORincomebelowthefederalpovertylevelcanrequesta
permanentfilingexemption(
Schmidt,"PortlandArtsTax:TheStorybehindtheCity'sReversal
onSocialSecurityIncome").
Thisexemptionisonethatdoesnothavetobesubmittedyearly.If
thetaxpayersfinancialsituationchangesthough,thetaxpayermustnotifytheRevenueDivision
andfileanArtsTaxreturnforanyyearthatthetaxpayernolongerqualifiesfortheexemption

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(
Schmidt).
Thisinvolvedacomplicatedrefundprocess,andanoverallreductionofrevenuefrom

thetax.
OneproblemthatIpersonallyseewiththetaxisthattherevenueisonlydistributed
amongelementaryschools.Iunderstandthatitisimportantfortheseyoungstudents,juststarting
out,togetthebasisoftheirartseducationofftoasolidstart,butIseenoreasonwhyitisnot
importantformiddleandhighschoolstudentstocontinuetheirartseducation.Theoptionsfor
artsinschoolscontributestomanystudentssuccessandhappiness.Ipersonallytookseveralarts
classesinhighschool,includingpaintingclasses,drawingclasses,artseminar,andallthechoir
classesthatmyschooloffered.Theseclasseshelpedexpandmycreativityandalwaysmademe
happytobethere.Thatsaid,manyoftheprogramsthatIwasinvolvedinwerestrugglingwith
funding.Therewerelimitedartsuppliesforstudents,evenwiththeartsfeethatstudentspaid.
Whenspeakingwithmysisterregardingthistopic,shestartedtotellmeabouthowshortof
moneyhertheaterprogramwasinhighschool.Theyhadtomakedowithwhattheycould
afford,andoftenhadtomakeadjustmentstothesetfortheschoolproductionsbasedonthe
suppliestheyhadonhand.Mysistersaysthatshewouldsupportpayingthetaxifwelivedinan
areathatwasrequiredtopayit.Perhapsanotherrefinementofthetaxcouldincludemore
schoolswithinthesixPortlanddistricts,sothattheolderchildrencanalsoreceiveafull
education,includingtheartsprograms.
Manyoftheartsprogramcutsbegantobenoticeableduringthe20072009recession.
MysisterandIsawthisfirsthandintheschoolsthatweattendedduringthistime.Atthistime,
teacherswerebeingcutfromschooldistricts,andunfortunately,manyofthefirsttobeletgo

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wereteachersfromtheartdepartmentsofschools.InresponsetoPortlandPublicschools
eliminatingtheK12ArtsTOSA(teacheronspecialassignment)positionatthedistrictlevel,a
highschoolcounselorfromthePortlandPublicSchoolDistrict,wroteacontroversiallettertothe
superintendentsboardthatwaspublishedinthe
WillametteWeekly
(
Slovic."ArtsCutsat
PortlandPublicSchools(AndtheDangersof'ReplyAll')").
Thiswoman,whowasnotnamedin
thearticle,pointsoutthattheschoolsalwaysfindawaytokeepotherprogramsintact,butseem
tocuttheartsprogramseverytime.
Itisjustsadandfrustratingtomethatanyschooldistrict
seesitfittocuttheArts...andtocuttheArtsfirst,andkeepalltheothersubjects,isvery
telling(Slovic).Asastrongbelieverintheimportanceforthearts,Ifindthisverydisturbingas
well.Thecounselorgoesontodiscusspossiblereallocationoffundsforthedistrict,involving
cuttingfromthesuperintendent'sbudget.Shementionshowmuchmoneyisusedforthe
superintendentboardtogooutfortrainingsandlunch,andhiresubsforallofthemissingstaff
thatareatthesemeetings.Shealsoarguesthatmanyofthesepositionsdonotbenefitthe
studentseducation.Thiswomanadvocatedforcutstobemadeatthehigherlevelsratherthan
alwayscuttingfromtheartsprograms.

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Onequestionthatsomeonewhoishesitantaboutpayingthetaxmightaskis,Whyis
thistaxnecessary?Toanswerthisquestion,theRACCprovidesstatisticsabouttheshockingly
steeprateofdeclineinPortlandschools:
InPortlandin2012therewere11,596childrenattendingschoolsthatdonothaveanyart,
dance,drama,andmusicinstruction.
In2011only18%ofPortlandelementaryschoolsprovidedartinstructioncomparedto
83%nationallyonly58%ofPortlandelementaryschoolsprovidemusicinstruction
comparedto94%nationally.
Inthelastfiveyears,ParkroseandCentennialSchoolDistrictshavecuttheirartsand
musicteachingstaffbyhalf,whilePortlandPublicSchoolshasdroppedallarts
instructionin22schoolsinjusttwoyears.(ArtsTaxFAQ)
Lookingatstatisticslikethese,itisclearthatthecityneedstobetterfundtheartdepartmentsof
schools,whetherthisbethroughataxorpurelythroughdonationsofdedicatedsupporters.
Inregardstothissubject,Ichosetointerviewmyhighschoolartteacher,Shelley
Socolofsky,whomItookclasseswithforseveralyears.Shelleyisnotonlyahighschoolteacher,
butalsoacollegeprofessorandalocalartist.Iwantedtogettheperspectiveofadedicatedart
instructorwhoknowsalltoowellthestrugglesofbudgetcutstotheartsdepartment.Shelley
buysmanyofherstudentsartsuppliesoutofpocketbecauseshewantsherstudentstohavethe
bestpossiblesuppliesforthebestpossiblelearningexperience,whichthebudgetunfortunately
doesnotallowfor.Shelleyisaproponentforthetax,eventhoughshehasnotlivedinadistrict
thathashadtopaythetax,norhassheworkedforaschoolthatbenefitedfromthetax.When
askedabouthowshefeelsaboutthetax,Shelleytalkedabouthowartprogramsarethefirsttobe

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cuteverytimethebudgetfacesacut.Thetax,Imean,eventhoughitwasextremely
controversial,Ilikedthattherewassomeconversationoccurringaboutifweweregoingtofund
theartsbecausetheartsarethefirstthingtobecut.Thatsbeenthewayithasbeenforsooolong
inthiscountry(Socolofsky).ShewentontospeakaboutEuropeandhowitiscompletely
differentthere.Shesaysthattheyembracetheartsandthatisispartoftheirlifeandcurriculum
allthetime.Shelleywouldlovetoseetheartsprogramsnoticedmoreandforthemtobecomea
biggerpartofeverydaylifejustastheyareinEurope.
Inregardstoonlyelementaryschoolscurrentlybenefitingfromthetax,Shelleythought
thiswasagoodstart.SheinformedmethatmanyyearsagoinOregonartandmusicprograms
wererequiredinelementaryschools,sothatelementary,middle,andhighschoolsallhadarts
programs.Thiswaseventuallycompletelygutted,andnowbecauseofthelargeamountsof
cutsfromtheartdepartment,manyelementaryschoolshaveteacherswhodonotspecializeinart
ormusicteachthesetypesofclasses(Socolofsky).AccordingtoShelley,Washingtonand
Californiastillhavethoseelementaryschoolartprogramsrequiredandintact.Shebelievesitis
importantforschoolstohireteachersspecificallytrainedintheartstobeteachingthem,notonly
tobenefitstudentsbutalsobecauseiftheydonot,thenitfunnelsintothebeliefthattheartsare
notimportant.IamgladIgottotalkwithShelleyandhearheropinionsonthetaxandthe
generalunderappreciationofthearts.Iagreewithherthatthisissomethingthatneedstobe
talkedaboutinordertomakeachange.
Inordertohearbothaproponentandanopponenttothetax,Ialsointervieweda
coworkerofminewhoisstronglyagainstthetax.AccordingtoReeseGlasscock,whowasa
Multnomahcountyresidentfortwoyears,thetaxisstupid(Glasscock).Hegotfiredupjust

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hearingthementionofit.Reeseviewsthetaxasstrugglingcollegestudentsbeingchargedan
unnecessary35dollarsayear.Iftheydonotpayitthentheyreceiveafinefor$20greaterthan
theoriginalamount,andtheamountcontinuestoincreaseasthetaxisnotpaid.Hebelievesthat
studentsshouldbeexemptfrompayingthetax,astheygenerallyhavealowincomeandalready
havealotofexpensesthattheyareworryingabout.OneofthereasonsthatReesemovedoutof
Multnomahcountyrecentlywastoavoidpayingthetax.ItwasjustanextraexpensethatI
couldnotaffordatthetime,whilegoingtoschool,hesaid.Reeseclaimsthatthepaymentisnot
aregularpartofthetaxreturnprocess,makingitmorecomplicatedandlesstrustworthy.
Residentsapparentlyjustreceiveapostcardtotheirhouseremindingthemtogoonlinetopay
thetax,wheretheymustthenputtheircreditcardinformationintothesystem.Reesesaidthathe
wasnottrustingofthisprocess.ForyoungcollegestudentslikeReese,payingthat$35canmake
animpactinthemonththatthetaxisdue.Itcouldalsobebetterifitwasmoreorganized,and
includedwithothertaxestomaketheprocesseasier.Thisisasamplenoticethatonemay
receiveremindingthemtopaythetax:

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Ipersonallyconnecttothistopicinseveralways,buthaveconflictingopinionsonit.
EventhoughIdonotcurrentlyhavetopaythetaxbecauseofwhereIlive,itisaverygood
possibilityformeinthenextseveralyears,soImaybepayingthetaxinthefuture.Asaformer
artstudentinpublicschools,Iseethatthemoneycanbeextremelybeneficialtoschoolsarts
programs.Somanyschoolsarestrugglingtokeepteachers,andtohavethenecessarysuppliesto
helpstudentssucceedandlearnthemost.Sowiththatinmind,Iwouldlovetohelpthiscause.
Ontheotherhand,Iamalsoacollegestudent,workingeverydayoftheweektopayforschool
andworkingtowardssupportingmyself.Ataxlikethiscouldaffectmymoneysituationforthe
monthofApril.Overallthough,Ilovetoseetheartsprogramsreceivinghelp,andIamhappy
thattheyaregettingfundingtoprovideproperinstructiontochildrenatayoungagefindtheir
hiddenpassionsandtalents.
Overall,theartstaxisasubjectwithalotofcontroversysurroundingit.Currently
though,themoneytakeninisbeingallocatedtosixPortlandschooldistrictsandtotheRACC.
Thismoneyisbenefitingtheadditionofnewteachersinordertokeepelementaryartprograms
intactandsuccessful.Itisalsobenefitingnonprofitorganizationsandlocalartists.Itwillbe
interestingtoseetheparticipationinthisyearstax,andtoseetheoppositionsurroundingit.As
myformerteachersaid,itismostimportanttojustgettheconversationgoingaboutthearts,
whetherfororagainstit.Themoretalkaboutcontroversialtopics,themorelikelyachangeisto
occur.

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Becker,Jack.
PublicArt:AnEssentialComponentofCreatingCommunities
.
Americansforthe
Arts
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AmericansForTheArts.org
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Adams,RobertL.
TheClearingHouse:AJournalofEducationalStrategies,IssuesandIdeas
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"TheCityofPortland,Oregon."
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Board,TheOregonianEditorial."PortlandGasTax,MeetthePortlandArtsTax:Editorial
Agenda2016."N.p.,n.d.Web.01Feb.2016.

Theen,Andrew."PortlandArtsTax:Controversial$35IncomeTaxNeeds'review,'Refinement,
PotentialChanges,CitizenGroupSays."
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TheOregonianEditorialBoard."PortlandShouldRestoreArtstaxFundstoTwoSchools:
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Schmidt,Brad."PortlandArtsTax:VotersApproveMeasure26146toPayforArtsTeachers,
Organizations."N.p.,06Nov.2012.Web.01Feb.2016.

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Schmidt,Brad."PortlandArtsTax:TheStorybehindtheCity'sReversalonSocialSecurity
Income."N.p.,07May2013.Web.01Feb.2016.

Slovic,Beth."ArtsCutsatPortlandPublicSchools(AndtheDangersof'ReplyAll')."
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"RACCAwards$665,595forArtisticProjectsin2016."
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Tierney,John."WhereDoesthePortlandArtsTaxGo?"
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"ArtsOversightCommitteeFirstAnnualReport."
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Report
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Glasscock,Reese.Personalinterview.26Feb.2016.

Socolofsky,Shelley.Telephoneinterview.01Mar.2016.