Portland Officials Optimistic About Arts Tax Collection

OPB | April 1, 2014 10:37 p.m. | Updated: April 2, 2014 11:19 a.m. | Gresham, Oregon

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The head of Portland’s Revenue Bureau says he believes the city has worked through the bugs that may have prevented residents from paying an arts tax online last year.

The Citizen Oversight Committee heard reports on collections, and on how six school districts have spent cash from last year's collections.

The Citizen Oversight Committee heard reports on collections, and on how six school districts have spent cash from last year's collections.

April Baer / Oregon Public Broadcasting

Thomas Lannom spoke at an oversight committee meeting Tuesday night. He listed the website among several problems in the first year of the Arts Education and Access Fund. Lannom says long delays in processing frustrated some taxpayers.

“The city has now upgraded all software and payment processing, and beefed up the server,” Lannom said. “There are a couple of layers of redundancy. I’m given a lot of assurances there should be no repeat this year.”

The Revenue Bureau sent out 3,000 letters in January and March to people who may not have finished paying online last year.

Centennial School District is one of several that was able to restore arts instructors. Music programs, in particular, are flourishing, like this class at Oliver Elementary.

Centennial School District is one of several that was able to restore arts instructors. Music programs, in particular, are flourishing, like this class at Oliver Elementary.

Rob Manning / Oregon Public Broadcasting

The city plans to send another 5,000 letters after April 15. The tax is $35 per adult city resident, though there are exemptions for people based on income.  

Last year, the city collected just over $8 million. Collections of the arts tax so far this year are down about $390,000 compared with the same time last year. But Lannom says he doesn’t know if this represents a trend.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect amount for the money collected by the city last year.

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