Portland taxpayer doubts city will effectively collect new street fee

Portland taxpayer doubts city will effectively collect new street fee »Play Video
Patt Stanek says she's concerned about how a proposed street fee will be enforced if the city can't even collect its arts tax.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Patt Stanek has lived in Portland since Dwight Eisenhower was president. She's seen her share of taxes and fees. But a new street fee proposal, which city leaders insist would raise up to $53 million per year for street improvements, sidewalks and safety work at dangerous intersections, has her hackles up.

"How are they going to bill it?" she asked the On Your Side Investigators Wednesday.

City leaders are rolling out the proposal Thursday morning.

Stanek's not necessarily against the fee but she has serious concerns about how it will be collected in light of the controversial collection of the city's arts tax. Portland voters passed the Arts Education and Access Income Tax, commonly known as the Arts Tax, in November 2012 to fund Portland school teachers and art-focused nonprofit organizations in the city.

But last month, an On Your Side investigation found more than 145,000 Portland taxpayers didn't pay.

"It's not fair. It's just not fair," Stanek said. "Until they start doing their paperwork and trying to be fair about the whole thing - I'm just kind of disgusted with the whole thing. They don't seem to think things through."    
    
On Wednesday, KATU's Mary Loos pressed Portland Commissioner Steve Novick about the street fee at an East Portland Chamber of Commerce meeting. Novick did admit, however, that the fee wasn't popular.

"At a certain point, political leaders have to say, well, if people want us to solve a problem but none of the solutions are particularly popular, so do we decide we're going to throw up our hands and do nothing?" Novick said.

He continued, "Or do we say that maybe we have to do something that's not so popular in order to address a problem that everybody acknowledges is a problem?"

Loos attempted to ask Novick another question but was cut off by Novick. Loos tried to ask Novick more questions about the street fee after the meeting but Novick walked by right without saying a word. Finally, Loos tracked down Portland Mayor Charlie Hales but he too declined to comment.

"Not today but tomorrow," Hales told KATU. "We're having a press conference tomorrow."
     
That doesn't work for Stanek who said she's tired of picking up the slack for the slackers.

"There's got to be a better way," Stanek said.

According to Portland Revenue Bureau spokesman Thomas Lannom, the city's collected more than $14 million in Arts Tax payments from 300,000 Portlanders. Lannom also said the Revenue Bureau is sending letters to thousands of taxpayers who did not file their tax returns for 2012 and 2013. The letters will assess the full tax and penalties for the years they did not pay.

Taxpayers who pay the tax in full within 30 days of the date on the letter will have their penalties waived, Lannom said.

Also, Lannom said the Revenue Bureau is offering to waive all penalties for taxpayers who choose to voluntarily identify themselves. Anyone wishing to voluntarily comply with the tax, without penalty, can call the Arts Tax Help Line at 503-865-4ART (4278).