The Fishers City Council on Oct. 10 voted 8-1 to approve a 1 percent food and beverage tax that will go into effect Dec. 1 2022. Councilor Jocelyn Vare cast the lone vote against the tax.
The meeting also included approval of plans to expand the Fishers District and approval of the 2023 budget, which lowers the tax rate from 71.65 to 71.15 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
The 1 percent increase in the food and beverage tax will be added to the 7 percent state sales tax and 1 percent already going to Hamilton County, meaning people who dine in Fishers will pay a 9 percent tax.
City officials estimate the tax would generate approximately $3.2 million a year to help pay for a $170 million event center planned in the Fishers District. The center is projected to hold up to 8,500 guests and become the home of the Indianapolis Fuel hockey team. The event center is also planned to serve as a community center that will hold events like HSE and Fishers High School graduations and the Mudsock basketball game.
Also approved at the meeting is a $550 million expansion of the Fishers District, which is also set to include 60,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 70,000 square feet of office space, two hotels and luxury apartments.
At the council meeting, Vare tried and failed to add two amendments to the ordinance. She proposed adding a clarification that the funds raised through the new tax would only go toward the event center and that the tax would sunset after 40 years. Mayor Scott Fadness responded by saying if the city were to add a sunset clause, its leaders would then have to go back to the statehouse if it were to consider reimplementing it.
Fadness said he was proposing the food and beverage tax while at the same time lowering the city’s property tax rate, which was also passed at the Oct. 10 meeting. He noted that the event center will partially be paid for by visitors through the new food and beverage tax, easing the burden on Fishers residents.
“The idea of being able to use a food and beverage tax allows us to collect revenue from people who don’t live in Fishers,” Fadness said. “So, we’re accomplishing both goals and reducing the burden on the residents for property taxes, while at the same time delivering this amazing amenity to our residents. That’s why we think the food and beverage tax is a good avenue to accomplish that.”
A public hearing on the proposed tax was held Oct. 6, with four people providing feedback. Two were in support of the tax, one raised questions and one opposed it.
At the hearing, former Fishers Town Council member Mike Colby asked about the possibility of including a sunset law to eventually retire the tax.
Jack Russell, president of OneZone chamber of commerce, said the chamber supports the food and beverage tax because it would not only help pay for this new event center but also help support local restaurants when visitors come to town.
Brenda Myers, president of Hamilton County Tourism, provided data that showed 42 percent of the nearly 4 million annual visitors to Hamilton County end up visiting Fishers. She also provided numbers that showed Hamilton County brings in about $330 million in food and beverage sales alone and that about 34 percent is spent in Fishers.
The only remonstrance against the tax came from Fishers resident Chaz Druetzler. He said while he supports the event center project, he does not believe the city should be adding a food and beverage tax to fund it. Druetzler suggested the city fund the building with support from a sponsor or at least wait until prices of building materials drop. An employee in the construction industry, Druetzler said he’s seen material prices inflate nearly 30 percent in the last year.
“I feel like I’m taxed enough,” Druetzler said. “I don’t think that I would enjoy paying for this event center every day, or the rest of the time I live in Fishers anyway. As I mentioned, I have no problem with the development. I think you guys should look into finding a corporate sponsor that might like to put their name on the building, or something creative like that, so that the taxpayers aren’t asked to just keep paying for more and more and more.”