Legislature OKs new Fishers food-and-drink tax

Fishers has state lawmakers’ permission to impose a 1-percent food-and-beverage tax, but local leaders aren’t rushing into anything.

Town Council President John Weingardt said officials will convene a special meeting—likely in the second half of the year—to solicit public input before making a decision on the levy, which could be used only to lower property taxes or support economic development efforts.

“It could still be voted down,” he said. “If we don’t have an economic development deal to hang it on, we might be hard-pressed" to approve a tax hike.

Fishers opted not to collect an additional 1-percent of food-and-beverage sales eight years ago, when a funding deal for Lucas Oil Stadium gave regional communities the chance.

Hamilton County was one of six counties surrounding Indianapolis that OK’d a 1-percent food-and-beverage tax to help build the venue. 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.

That extra 1 percent added $1.6 million to Carmel’s coffers last year, 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 both 2014 and 2015 if it imposes the tax.

Legislators sent a measure authorizing the new tax to the governor April 18. It became law April 30, even though Gov. Mike Pence chose not to sign it.

“While Gov. Pence supports the local control provided by the bill, he is not inclined to endorse this legislation that allows for a tax increase,” spokeswoman Kara Brooks said.

Fishers leaders have until Dec. 31 to decide whether to proceed.

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