Fishers asks to hike food-and-beverage tax

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Find a penny here and a penny there, and pretty soon you’ve got enough to spring for a vat of Diet Coke from McDonald’s—or to spur investment in a community.

The town of Fishers is aiming for the latter, asking state legislators to authorize a 1-percent food-and-beverage tax that could generate more than $1 million a year for economic development.

If House Bill 1070 is enacted, Town Council members would have until Dec. 31 to vet the idea with residents and decide whether to impose the tax. The legislation specifies that the proceeds could be used only for economic development purposes or to reduce the town’s property tax levy.

Hamilton County was one of the six counties surrounding Indianapolis that approved a 1-percent food-and-beverage tax eight years ago to help pay for construction of the $750 million Lucas Oil Stadium. Counties keep half the revenue and transfer the rest to Marion County’s Capital Improvement Board, which owns the stadium.

At the time, individual communities were given the option of instituting an additional 1-percent tax for their own use. Officials in Carmel, Noblesville and Westfield seized the opportunity, but Fishers decided not to participate. Until now.

The extra 1 percent added $1.6 million to city coffers in Carmel last year, according to the 2012 Indiana Handbook of Taxes, Revenue and Appropriations, and Noblesville brought in almost $1.3 million.

An analysis from the state Legislative Services Agency estimates Fishers could collect just over $1 million in 2014 and 2015.

As the town shifts its focus from residential development to commercial investment—and embarks on an ambitious plan to remake its downtown—every penny counts.

“We’re looking at a couple of projects where that money would be helpful,” said Town Manager Scott Fadness.

Town Council member Renee Cox said the additional revenue could be used for a variety of purposes, including economic development incentives and infrastructure improvements—“anything and everything that makes Fishers more attractive.”

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