Council delays decision on fate of Fishers tax

December 3, 2013
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Fishers’ Town Council postponed its decision on a proposed 1-percent food-and-beverage tax Monday night, tabling the measure quickly and without comment rather than carry out an expected vote.

Councilors aren’t ready to deliver a verdict, Vice President Pete Peterson said later, but they’re working on it. “There’s still a lot of discussion going on,” he said.

State lawmakers gave Fishers permission to impose the tax this year, as long as the town uses the revenue—projected to be $1 million a year—to reduce property taxes or fund economic development.

Since the open-ended proposal was introduced to the council Nov. 4, the town’s governing body has held two public hearings and collected about 30 letters from residents. Peterson says the delay ensures members have the chance to process the (mostly negative) feedback.

But it also could buy enough time to address opponents’ complaint that it doesn’t make sense to impose a levy without tying it to a specific economic development project.

Town leaders have said several deals are in the works, including one council veteran Scott Faultless last month said could represent a $100 million investment in the community.

Peterson said it’s possible that one of those pending projects could “come to fruition” by the end of the year, the deadline for Fishers to impose the tax.

A majority of the seven-member council would have to agree to get the food-and-beverage measure back on a council agenda. It has one regular meeting remaining on Dec. 16, and President John Weingardt could convene a special session if necessary to revisit the proposal.

Freshman Councilor Renee Cox, an outspoken opponent of the tax, is glad the council is taking its time. “Listening is always good,” she said.

Earlier Monday, the Town Council, Fishers Redevelopment Commission and Fishers Economic Development Commission unanimously approved an incentive deal with growing construction firm Meyer Najem, which plans to build a $5.5 million headquarters and office building downtown.

The project agreement calls for the town to contribute 1.7 acres of land and $1.4 million. Fishers also will share in any profits from the eventual sale of the building, said Community Development Director Tom Dickey.

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  • Why all the fuss?
    Let's say you spend $200 a week to eat out. You can probably afford to spend $202 if the tax is passed. No one that I know avoids eating in Carmel, Westfield, or Noblesville because of the 1% tax they have. And I haven't noticed hoards of people flocking to Fishers from Carmel, Westfield, or Noblesville in order to avoid the 1% tax. Tie it to economic development and let's move on.

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  1. The $104K to CRC would go toward debts service on $486M of existing debt they already have from other things outside this project. Keystone buys the bonds for 3.8M from CRC, and CRC in turn pays for the parking and site work, and some time later CRC buys them back (with interest) from the projected annual property tax revenue from the entire TIF district (est. $415K / yr. from just this property, plus more from all the other property in the TIF district), which in theory would be about a 10-year term, give-or-take. CRC is basically betting on the future, that property values will increase, driving up the tax revenue to the limit of the annual increase cap on commercial property (I think that's 3%). It should be noted that Keystone can't print money (unlike the Federal Treasury) so commercial property tax can only come from consumers, in this case the apartment renters and consumers of the goods and services offered by the ground floor retailers, and employees in the form of lower non-mandatory compensation items, such as bonuses, benefits, 401K match, etc.

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