PDX income tax proposed to help pay for music, arts in schools

PDX income tax proposed to help pay for music, arts in schools

PORTLAND, Ore. – As school budget cuts have put arts and music teachers on the endangered list in local elementary schools, a Portland arts advocacy group wants a city income tax to help fill the funding gap.

The group, Creative Advocacy Network, is proposing the $35 per year income tax. It is expected to raise a total of $12 million a year for arts and music education and programming. A little more than half of that money – more than $6 million – would pay to hire roughly 68 arts and music teachers in Portland elementary schools. The rest would be distributed as grants to arts groups, schools and nonprofits.

The tax would not apply to everybody in Portland – just people who are at least 18 years old and make enough money to not be considered low-income.

Few Portland public elementary schools have arts teachers and officials with Portland Public Schools say they would gladly accept the outside help. But the question is if voters are willing to raise their income taxes.

"We tried to develop a plan that would ask people for as little as possible and would exclude all low-income members of the population," said Jessica Jarratt Miller, executive director of Creative Advocacy Network. "We heard people say that they would be willing to pay about $3 more a month."

But response from taxpayers Wednesday was mixed.

"If it's for arts and music I'm happy to pay it, although it's a stretch. I mean it's hard for a lot of us to come up with that," said Stephanie Calvert.

Cindy Kanoo said, "I'm all for art and all for a music teacher, but I'm not sure I would give them $35 more – money that I don't have. I think that maybe they could handle the money they do have a little better, and then I would be more willing to look at giving them more money."

Creative Advocacy Network has Portland Mayor Sam Adams' support. He intends to bring this to the City Council this summer with the goal of putting it on the November ballot.