New arts tax, but new way to collect it still in the works

PORTLAND, Ore. - When voters approved the Arts Tax for Portland schools in November, the measure included collecting the tax for 2012, but building that single-tax system from scratch hasn't been easy.

The tax is due April 15, but you can't pay it yet even if you wanted to.

The new $35 worker tax will put arts and music teachers back in every Portland elementary school, but for some Portlanders the new tax is a surprise.

"I hadn't heard about the arts tax," said one resident.

More might be surprised that the $35 tax is retroactive to last year.

If you want to, you can pay by check once the city sends out a form in the mail. But before that happens, the city will send out a notice to each household encouraging people to pay the arts tax online.

But don't look for to pay online just yet. Right now, it'll just redirect you to the city's Revenue Bureau website. The city's been working on the site since the day after Election Day. But it's not ready yet.

"The database, and the website, and the applications that tie those together - that development takes some time," said Thomas Lannon, director of the Portland Revenue Bureau. "And we want to make sure we get it right the first time so that we're not asking people to go back online or to correct any problems down the line."

According to the Revenue Bureau, the Arts Tax payment site should up and running by March 4. It hopes most people pay the tax online, saving resources and restoring school arts programs at the same time.

The bureau expects most people to pay the tax online, because it says three out of four homes in Portland have Internet access.

While payment forms will be mailed April 1, if you pay online before then, the city won't have to send one.

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