The city of Portland, Ore. is offering a penalty-free grace period through April 15 to the estimated 200,000 residents who still haven't paid last year's $35 arts tax.
The city will charge those who miss that deadline an additional $35 late penalty. The fee was due in April 2013.
Eventually, those residents may be contacted by an outside collection agency as the city is considering hiring one, said Kelly Ball, an analyst with the city's Office of Management and Finance. Ball said it's not known if the city would pay debt collectors a percentage of funds collected or a fixed fee.
The cost of hiring an outside agency to pursue unpaid bills of $35 or $70 arguably is not worth the trouble for most organizations, given the resources and time needed to contact each debtor.
In 2013, the first year the arts tax was due, only 55% of taxpayers paid it, falling below what the city predicted.
Nearly all adults in Portland who are older than age 18 are required to pay the city's yearly arts tax, which was approved by voters in 2012 to fund arts and music education for Portland's elementary schools. The city has collected $7.9 million so far and spent much of the money to hire 45 full-time art and music teachers in Portland Public Schools.