[Publisher’s note: At the time of publication, the fate of the proposed food and beverage tax was unknown. If approved by the Fishers Town Council, it will take effect January 2014. This story provides a background on the tax proposal.]
For several years, many Indiana communities have relied upon much-needed revenue generated by taxes levied on food and beverage purchases. Established by the Indiana General Assembly, this taxing mechanism has been a somewhat controversial, but lucrative means of generating additional revenue for local governments. Fishers, however, had not taken the food and beverage plunge – until now.
Faced with a “use it or lose it” scenario, the Fishers Town Council was staring at the prospect of leaving more than a million dollars in annual revenue on the table. That’s because action on establishing such a tax needed to be taken by the end of 2013. Thus, a decision was made to move forward. This month, two hearings are being held to provide the public an opportunity to weigh in on a proposal that would levy a one percent tax on all food and beverage purchases at Fishers restaurants and bars. When asked his opinion on the tax, John Weingardt, president, Fisher Town Council, said he was taking a wait-and-see position. “I’m waiting to hear from the public. What do they want? It’s an opportunity to gather information… from all points of view.”
While food and beverage levies have been used in a variety of ways including funding for capital projects like Lucas Oil Stadium, the Fishers proposal carried with it limitations: tax revenue could only be used for property tax relief, or for local economic development initiatives. It’s anticipated that the food and beverage tax would generate about $1.2 million annually. Weingardt explained that, if approved, the revenue might be used for both property tax relief and economic development. When pressed for examples, he pointed to infrastructure expenditures, investment to attract new businesses, and property tax abatement. “A wide array of options,” said Weingardt, who added that local school budgets might benefit from revenue offsets related to the state’s property tax and school funding formulas.
Town councilor Renee’ Cox – who also is a candidate to be Fishers’ first mayor – was opposed to the proposal. In a news release, Cox said, “As a fiscal conservative, I adamantly oppose any new tax that adds to the burden of small businesses in the community and Fishers families.” When contacted by Fishers Community Newsletter and asked if she risked being labeled as obstructionist, she replied, ”It’s possible… but I know we can do economic development differently than with a tax increase.” Cox was not alone in her opposition. At least one Facebook page was launched against the proposal. However, according to Weingardt, the Fishers Chamber of Commerce was in support of the levy.
If established, there’s a strong likelihood the tax will continue in perpetuity. Once such revenue streams are in hand, repeal is a rarity, Weingardt conceded. “I want to do what’s right for my community – for today and tomorrow,” he said.
Public hearings are set for Tuesday, November 12 and Monday, November 18 at 7:00 pm.
The council is set to vote on the proposal December 2.Read more