Councilor: $100M deal hanging on Fishers tax hike

November 19, 2013
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A private company is weighing a $100 million investment in Fishers, Town Council member Scott Faultless said Monday, but the project depends on adopting a 1-percent food-and-beverage tax that’s still the subject of heated debate.

The unidentified economic-development deal would require about $25 million in infrastructure improvements the town otherwise couldn’t afford, Faultless said after a public hearing on the proposed levy. He supports the measure, given what’s at stake.   

“One thing is certain,” he told the council and an audience of about two dozen. “If we don’t pass this, that deal goes away.”

State lawmakers gave Fishers permission to impose the tax this year, as long as the town uses the revenue to reduce property taxes or fund economic development. The tax is expected to generate about $1 million a year, at least to start.

If applied to property tax bills, that’s enough to save homeowners about $35 a year and free up an estimated $250,000 for the cash-strapped Hamilton Southeastern Schools, council President John Weingardt said during his post-hearing remarks.

Faultless made the economic development case, citing a missed opportunity in 2012, when the General Assembly turned down an earlier request to adopt the tax. At the time, the town had a different—but equally large—project in the pipeline. It fell apart when legislators said no.

Freshman council member Renee Cox, meanwhile, opposes the current proposal, saying there have to be other ways to fund economic development.

“Increasing taxes is not good for Fishers,” said Cox, who also is a candidate for mayor.

But she was one of six Fishers councilors who signed a 2012 letter asking state lawmakers for permission to impose the levy. The missive cited an unexpected bill for emergency dispatch services and the "very special, time-sensitive economic and community development opportunity" that Faultless said the town lost.

Cox said she knows more now than she did then.

Just six people took to the podium during Monday's hearing Monday. About 15 shared their thoughts at a special meeting on the subject last week. (Interestingly enough, hundreds more residents showed up when the town was talking about taking over trash collection.

Hamilton County was one of six counties that imposed a 1-percent food-and-beverage tax years ago as part of a regional deal to held build Lucas Oil Stadium. Half of that revenue is transferred to Marion County’s Capital Improvement Board, which owns the stadium.

At the time, municipalities could choose to institute an additional 1-percent tax for their own use. Officials in Carmel, Noblesville and Westfield seized the opportunity, but Fishers said no.

Now the fast-growing suburb is embarking on an ambitious—and expensive—downtown redevelopment plan intended to spur private investment. The town turned over publicly owned land and agreed to pay for a parking garage at The Depot, a $42 million mixed-use project under construction along 116th Street, for example, and its redevelopment commission has been buying and bundling private property to make it more attractive to developers.

Council members are expected to vote on the food-and-beverage tax next month.

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  • Hmmmmm
    Secrect $100M investor eh, interesting...any ideas on who/what this may be?
  • Not a new tax
    Mr. Faultless has been known for some "creative" claims. Raising $1 million per year with a new sales tax is not going to pay for $25 million in infrastructure, the only way to do that is with bonds. And I believe the only deal Fishers lost in 2012 was the Geico one, and that had nothing to do with whether or not Fishers had higher taxes. Fishers currently uses the fact that it DOESN'T have such a tax as a selling point to attract businesses.
  • Big Spenders-Big Government
    Let's spend tax money before we even before we collect it. It seems like they are looking for a excuse to raise taxes. Hamilton County has some of the biggest spending Republicans in elected office in the country. Yes, I am a republican
    • numbers???
      Are these numbers correct? To generate $1 million in revenue, a 1% tax would have to have sales of $100 million....does Fishers have that many restaurants generating that much revenue?
      • Well That Does It
        I really didn't know what to think about this whole 1%, but seeing that Ace is against it makes me think it might be a good idea! It's hard to take a serial candidate who can't win an election seriously (we know you're a republican, your name is on EVERY ballot!). Must be that he's contemplating a run in Fishers? After all, he doesn't do anything without it benefiting his next "campaign". Go back to Carmel.
      • Numbers correct
        Steve, That number can probably be correct. Fishers has 130 or more restaurants, which means the average restaurant sales per year would be in the $770,000 range. I think this is plausible considering upscale restaurants have $3m to $6m in revenue, mid-range will be in the $750k to $3m, and others below $750k. I don't know if it's correct, but I think it's within the realm of possibility. The validity of the $1m in additional tax revenue is not my concern. My concern is these "tourism" taxes placed on restaurants and hotels are designed to shift the tax burden to people outside of a community. If a city has a large convention business, sports teams, museums, and other attractions then it makes sense to place an increased tax on hotels and restaurants. Who visits Fishers and why? There are probably four major events that come to mind: Conner Prairie, Fishers Renaissance Faire, annual soccer tournament and annual softball tournament. Four events. Am I missing something? What that means to me is this tax is heavily on Fishers residents. So $1m will shift out of Fishers residents' pockets to the Town government. I think the town needs to demonstrate how that $1m (ideally more) will be given back to residents from this $100m phantom investment Mr. Faultless is dangling like a carrot. If there is no money returned to residents then this tax is regressive.
        • Fishers residents finally asking questions
          Regardless of what the Council ends up doing, it's actually refreshing to see Fishers residents and Council members finally seeming to question a tax increase. I moved her 18 years ago from the Phoenix area and a tax increase was never approved in my community at that time without a healthy debate and a need to convince the residents that a tax increase was actually needed. It seems like for years Fishers residents have just given an 'open check policy' to Fishers politicians whenever they wanted to raise a tax for virtually anything. Keep in mind it is our money, and dadinfishers hit it right on the head when he stated it's not visitors that will be picking up this tab, it's us, people who live in Fishers. A tax is a tax, no matter what name you cloak it in. Just as my household needs to live within my means, so should our city and make due with what we have. For local politicians, please quit coming back to us time and time again wanting to take a little bit more of the pie, or hopefully you'll all end up on the outside looking in when it comes to making future decisions about increasing my taxes. I for one already pay enough!
          • Where does Fadness Stand
            Mr. Faultless can attack Mrs. Cox all he wants at least she has an opinion on this issue. Where does your puppet Fadness stand on this issue? I see he has an opinion when giving away tax dollars such as the Sandstone Beach project, but has nothing to say about where he stands on this issue. I like the fact someone is addressing helping our schools, but the problem runs much deeper. Mr Fadness and his staff must stop looking at the schools as an ATM. The mentality of his Public Works director Eric Pethel and Assistant director Sean O Grady of "find a way to bill the schools" must be stopped. If the money is not there to pay overtime or to fund non school related projects or contracts finding a way to bill the schools is unacceptable. I still find it unbelievable that HSE is only giving their teachers a 1% raise while funding 3% of the 4% raise town employees are getting.
            • Tax Base
              No one has mentioned the fact that Fishers does not have nearly the tax base that communities like Carmel have. To bring a $100 million project into our community and the accompanying tax base has to be a good thing. The taxes generated from a $100 million tax base will go a long way toward HSE and many other projects.
            • Blackmail
              Never negotiate with blackmailers.
            • Wish you were right
              I wish fishers dad was right, but unfortunately this will pass because the public did not get engaged. I wonder how many posting with their strong opinions went to either one of the public comment meetings? I went to both and spoke at both. The turnout and opposition to this was very weak and because of that it will pass because the political cost will be small. People have to be engaged and not sit at home and think that posting comments will do.
              • I wish you were right
                I am sorry I meant KP, not dad inn fishers.
              • Faultless up to same ole tricks
                Can Faultess be trusted? It will be the first time! This carrot smells rotten. Please Scotty you and your playmates go pee in a different sandbox. We don't NEED this kind of development. No more retail! Fishers has PLENTY already going for it without debulous and speculative development financed on the backs of residents.
                • Fishers has enough Retail?
                  Why do you think Fishers has enough retail? We need more places to shop inside our town. Many people to to hamilton town center or castelton to shop higher end but we need high end retail here in Fishers! The same goes with restaurants. We need nice places to go out to eat in Fishers like they have nearby. Places like Bonefish or Bravos.
                • Corporate Welfare
                  Mitch Daniels called this "corporate welfare," which is off the backs of the residents of Fishers. There is virtually no association between economic development incentives and any measure of economic performance. Some of the Fishers Town Council think we need to pass it to find out what's in it!!! Sound familiar!!!
                • $100 million investment
                  I don't think there is anything wrong with using tax dollars as an incentive to lure business investment if that investment is good for the community. But let's be honest...we all know exactly what this secret $100 million carrot on a stick investment Faultless is dangling out there is -- it's just another home builder willing to invest $100 million in building more homes, which means the tax base will continue to rest squarely on the shoulders of home owners in Fishers. The town council needs to get their head out of their butts and realize they need to draw in large businesses so Fishers can diversify the tax base.
                • History
                  Local history shows, there have been several "deals" done by the state and local governments, to entice business, and after the money was spent, the taxpayers were left holding the bag. One glaring example is that huge factory up near Tipton. I remember seeing several others reported in the IBJ over the years, where the companies changed their minds, or went broke, or pick other reasons. Lets let the companies make their own investments first.

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