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Hearing draws lively debate on Fishers food-drink tax

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The Fishers Chamber of Commerce and some individual business owners are on opposite sides of a debate over imposing a 1-percent food-and-beverage tax to help fund economic development efforts in the town.

More than a dozen people spoke out Tuesday night at the first of two public hearings on the proposal. Town Council members are expected to vote in early December.

The Indiana General Assembly passed a law this year allowing Fishers to enact the tax on food and beverages served in restaurants. The revenue, estimated to be $1.2 million annually, can only be used to fund local economic development or reduce the town’s property-tax rate.

Restaurateur Bill Smythe said the tax would cut into his profit margins.

“For me, it’s a very specific taxation on my business,” said Smythe, who owns Claude and Annie’s Food & Spirits on 141st Street in Fishers. “Once you’ve taxed me, you’re effectively taxing my employees.”

Smythe told the council he would be less opposed to the levy if the proceeds were used to lower property-tax rates instead of funding economic development projects.

Local Realtor Kurt Meyer, speaking on behalf of the Fishers Chamber, said the tax is needed to fund economic development—an important part of diversifying the town’s property tax base and attracting employers to Fishers.

“It’s a competitive world,” Meyer said. “Every time that one of these companies comes to look at Fishers, Indiana, they’re looking at not only our neighboring communities but they’re also looking at neighboring states.”

He was in the minority at the hearing, which drew about three dozen residents. Most who spoke opposed the tax, and many expressed skepticism about imposing the levy with no specific economic development projects on the horizon.

IBJ reported Nov. 9 that officials are working on specific deals, but they aren’t ready to discuss details.

Town Council members told the crowd Tuesday that such talks must be conducted behind closed doors due to the competitive nature of negotiations.

The only council member to take a clear position on the issue so far is Renee Cox, a mayoral candidate who strongly opposes the tax. She came under attack Tuesday from council members Scott Faultless, Mike Colby and Pete Peterson, who accused her of using the tax debate for political gain. Cox said she’s just listening to the people.

Fishers Town Manager Scott Fadness, who also is running for mayor, said he is not ready to take a position on the issue. He wants to listen to public comments and wait for specific information on how the tax will work. He said waiting will allow him to make an “informed decision.”

Mayoral candidate Walt Kelly also has said he opposes the food-and-beverage tax.

Other communities in the northern suburbs have been collecting a 1-percent food-and-beverage tax for eight years, ever since a funding deal for the construction of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis gave them the chance. The tax applies to dine-in and carry-out prepared food.

Suburbs that adopted the tax at the time—Carmel, Noblesville, Westfield and Zionsville—can use the money for any public purpose.

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  • Fadness
    If one is to vote for Fadness shouldn't we know where he stands on issues? If Mr. Fadness is the economic genius that turned the towns finances around surely he would at least have an unbiased opinion about how the tax would affect the local economy. The issue of this tax has been discussed for the past year and Mr. Fadness does not have an informed opinion? I am curious if Pete had his Fadness for Fishers shirt on when he accused Mrs. Cox of trying to get votes. Fadness has been an extremely poor town manger and would be worse as mayor. What about transparency? Negotiations have to be held behind closed doors because of competitiveness? Is that because most sensible individuals would have been against giving away 10 million dollars and valuable real estate?
  • should be considered
    I don't know if this tax is a good idea without a specific plan announced yet. I am in full support for this tax once Fishers announces something it will be useful for. I love this town (soon to be city) because of its innovating ways to keep residents in the town rather than spending money elsewhere. I can't wait until the new Nickel Plate Depot is finished. We will finally have some high end restaurants and stores and downtown Fishers! For those of you think the Nickel Plate Amphitheater was a waste of money, you are wrong. They are already producing many events there that help the community as a whole. The Boo Bash there had many visitors. The Christmas event there will be nice also.
  • Go ahead
    and vote for raising taxes. We will remember you and take pleasure in voting you out at the first opportunity! Let the market determine need for development. And why not wait say a couple decades to see how that new complex in front of the town center turns out. We don't need any more of the "build it and they will come" crowd.
  • Chamber
    One must always remember that Chambers of Commerce serve the most powerful economic forces in a community or the country. The Chamber is a huge supporter of corporate welfare in many forms.
  • only 36 people??
    Really Fishers??? Only 36 of you care about a 1% increase in your taxes?
  • why stop?
    I heard the comments from the Chamber and wanted to ask - why just impose the tax on one industry ? If the tax is so small and insignificant then surely all businesses would welcome the chance to pay it.
  • Names to remember
    Cox and Kelly. I will remember your names come May when I am voting in the primary. Glad to see you two come out so strongly against this.
  • Reign in Fi$her$
    This town spends money like there is no tomorrow. For the most part, the biggest part of what they spend is good for the town. And then came the intersection at 96th & Allisonville. $8,000,000 for what? Construction was a joke and took forever. Lanes don't line up and creates road rage like I've not seen in a long, long time. Who supervised this job? If this is any indication what these clowns who "run" Fishers would do with more money - God help us. PS - If you work for Fishers now, don't even think about getting elected to city government.

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