Portland voters overwhelmingly approved an Arts Education and Access Fund in 2012 restoring arts education in Portland public schools and expanding access to arts and culture for Portland residents. 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, drama, or dance teacher on staff— more than 90 teachers total. Funding allows for approximately one arts specialist for every 500 students.
Money from the arts tax goes first to schools (65% of total funding since 2012). Any additional revenues are then allocated through RACC grants to artists, arts organizations and art projects. Last year (2019) the tax provided $5 million for grants supporting a wide variety of performances, exhibits, lectures, and community events, including many free and reduced-cost arts experiences for Portland residents.
RACC also uses art tax money to fund special projects that expand arts access for communities of color, veterans, artists and audiences with different abilities. Portland neighborhoods underserved with RACC grants are prioritized for project funding.
For a summary of grants that RACC has awarded to nonprofit organizations using the Arts Education and Access Fund, click here.
To pay the arts tax, click here.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: When is the arts tax due?
The arts tax is due on the same day that federal income tax is due.
Q: Who pays the tax, and how much?
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: 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 more than 90 arts specialists in Portland.
Additionally, the fund provides support for arts organizations in Portland. Public funding helps arts organizations sustain their programs and make creative experiences accessible and more affordable to Portland residents.
Q: How much is being raised?
In 2019 the arts tax raised approximately $13.1 million for art and art instruction in Portland K-5 schools. More information about the Arts Tax can be found on the City’s website.
Q: How is the money distributed?
The city disburses funds to school districts first, and then to RACC for grants to artists and arts organizations. Last year, RACC invested $5 million of Arts Education and Access Funds (Arts Tax funds) in arts organizations, artists and art projects.
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. Community volunteers evaluate all applications and recommend funding amounts to RACC’s 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.
SUMMARY OF ARTS TAX GRANT AWARDS
Grants awarded by RACC include many sources of public and private funding—including City of Portland General Fund dollars, individual and workplace donations, special event proceeds, and funding from Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington Counties. Find out more about the arts tax from the most recent Arts Tax Citizen Oversight Committee’s report to City Council (March 1, 2019).
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 (PDF)
- Contract between the City of Portland and RACC (2010) (PDF)
- Amendment to the RACC/City Contract (2012) (PDF)
- IGA between the City of Portland and the school districts (PDF)
- Act for Art: the 2009 action plan for arts and culture that led to the creation of the arts tax (PDF)
- National Endowment of the Arts report: “How the United States Funds the Arts” (3rd edition; November 2012) (PDF)
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.