Arts Tax FAQ

In November of 2012, 62% of Portland voters approved an Arts Education and Access Fund. The “arts tax” as it is commonly known was placed on the ballot by The Creative Advocacy Network (, and championed by then-Mayor Sam Adams.

The City of Portland collects the tax and administers the funds. An independent citizen oversight committee reviews expenditures, progress and outcomes.

Thanks to the arts tax, every elementary school in Portland’s six school districts (Centennial, David Douglas, Parkrose, Portland Public, Reynolds and Riverdale) now has at least one art, music or dance teacher on staff—91 teachers total. The AEAF funds one arts specialist for every 500 students.

RACC receives all remaining proceeds to invest as follows:

  • Up to 95% of RACC’s allocation helps provide general operating support for established nonprofit arts organizations.
  • At least 5% of RACC’s allocation is set aside for grants that increase arts access for every Portland resident. RACC has indicated that it intends to spend more than 5% on these types of grants, starting in 2017.
  • The AEAF also provides funds to help RACC coordinate and support arts specialists and other arts education activities in Portland’s six school districts.

For a summary of grants that RACC has awarded to nonprofit organizations using AEAF funds, click here.




Q: Why was this fund needed?

Without dedicated funding, arts education constantly finds itself on the chopping block. Between 2007 and 2011, many schools in the region reduced or eliminated their arts and music teaching staff. By 2011 there were only 31 arts specialists remaining in Portland, and 11,596 students attended a K-5 school that had no art, dance, drama or music instruction whatsoever. Today there are 91 arts specialists in Portland.

Meanwhile, arts organizations in Portland receive significantly less public support than in other U.S. cities – about 2% locally vs. a national average of 5%. Public funding helps arts organizations sustain their programs and make creative experiences available for every resident.



Q: Who pays the tax, how much, and when?

Every Portland resident age 18 and older whose household income is above the federal poverty level and whose personal income (not including Social Security) is $1,000 or more pays the tax of $35. Other exemptions apply; visit for details. Individuals file a separate tax return with the City of Portland at the same time that federal and state taxes are due.


Q: How much is being raised?

The city collected $9.8 million in tax year 2015. Compliance rates continue to improve, and ultimately the tax is expected to raise $10 million/year.


Q: How is the money distributed?

The city disburses funds to school districts first, and then to RACC. Tax year 2015 revenues of $9.8 million were distributed approximately as follows:


Q: How does RACC decide who receives funding from the arts tax?

RACC distributes arts tax proceeds through three RACC grant programs: General Operating Support, Project Grants, and Capacity Building Grants for Culturally Specific Arts Organizations. RACC is also setting aside funds to help invest in equity initiatives within GOS organizations. Community volunteers evaluate all applications and recommend funding amounts to the RACC Board. For more information, including funding criteria, guidelines and deadlines, visit Prospective applicants are also encouraged to subscribe to Art Notes, the RACC e-newsletter, to receive monthly updates of all RACC opportunities and deadlines.




Do you have questions that aren’t addressed here? We invite you to submit your question to RACC and we will get back to you as soon as we can. We may even post your question (and our answer) to this page.