In November of 2012, 62% of Portland voters approved an Arts Education and Access Fund (AEAF). The “arts tax” as it is commonly known was placed on the ballot by The Creative Advocacy Network (www.theartscan.org), and championed by then-Mayor Sam Adams.
The City of Portland collects the tax and administers the funds. These costs are capped at 5%. 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 72 of these teachers, one arts specialist for every 500 students.
RACC receives all remaining proceeds to invest as follows:
- The majority 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.
- 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.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Why was this fund needed?
A: 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, 72 of which are funded by the arts tax.
Meanwhile, arts organizations in Portland have long received significantly less public support than their counterparts in other U.S. cities. Public funding helps arts organizations sustain their programs and make them accessible for every resident.
Q: How was the tax developed and approved?
In the spring of 2009, following 22 months of conversations with more than 1,500 citizens, RACC and Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams published a new Creative Action Plan for the Portland Metropolitan region. Act for Art established a number of goals for arts and culture in the region—including, first and foremost, the need for a dedicated funding mechanism to support arts education and access. A new advocacy organization, the Creative Advocacy Network (CAN), was established to make this goal a reality, and in 2012 CAN focused its efforts on the City of Portland. CAN launched the Schools & Arts Together campaign in the spring of 2012 to support ballot measure 26-146. On November 6th, 2012, 62% of voters approved the initiative, officially establishing Portland’s Arts Education and Access Fund (AEAF).
Q: Who pays the tax, how much, and when?
A: 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 http://www.portlandoregon.gov/revenue/61551 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?
A: The tax is currently generating approximately $9.1 million/year, and compliance is improving over time. Ultimately the tax is expected to raise $10 million/year.
Q: What kind of oversight exists for these funds?
School districts and RACC undergo annual independent audits. An independent citizen Arts Oversight Committee (AOC), representative of the City’s diverse communities, reviews Fund expenditures and reports the impacts to the public on an annual basis. The AOC meetings and minutes are posted at http://www.portlandoregon.gov/revenue/60089.
Q: What must arts organizations do if they accept these funds?
A: To fulfill our obligation to the voters and the oversight committee, RACC requires grant recipients to provide detailed reports on where their services are being delivered, and who benefits. Over time, RACC will be working to ensure that some of the AEAF funds get directed to programs and services that are reaching underserved communities.
Q: How does RACC decide who receives funding from the arts tax?
AEAF dollars are awarded through two RACC grant programs: General Operating Support and Arts Equity Grants. Community volunteers evaluate all applications and recommend funding amounts to the RACC Board. For more information, including funding criteria, guidelines and deadlines, visit racc.org/grants. Prospective applicants are also encouraged to subscribe to Art Notes, the RACC e-newsletter, to receive monthly updates of all RACC opportunities and deadlines.
LEGAL INFORMATION AND LINKS
- City Code: Arts Education & Access Income Tax
- Artstax.net: The City of Portland’s website for the Arts Education & Access Income Tax
- Ballot Measure 26-146 as referred to the voters by Portland City Council
- Ballot measure description in the Voters’ Guide
- Contract between the City of Portland and RACC (2010)
- Amendment to the RACC/City Contract (2012)
- IGA between the City of Portland and the school districts
- National Endowment of the Arts report: “How the United States Funds the Arts” (3rd edition; November 2012)
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.