I believe it is our mayor’s responsibility to clearly announce a tax increase that he is proposing and defend its necessity. He must demonstrate leadership by asking residents to support these increases and provide residents the time and information to critically evaluate his proposals.

Mayor Fadness presented the City of Fishers 2020 Municipal Budget at the September City Council meeting. The presentation’s lack of details and imprecise delivery were a disservice to Fishers residents.

The Mayor proposed an increase in property tax for Fishers residents by an additional two cents per $100 of assessed property value. This is notable because it is the fifth consecutive increase in Fishers residents’ property taxes in the past five years.

Since 2015, Fishers residents’ property tax rate has increased over 14.5%. This increase may not sound very dramatic, but when coupled with the realized increase in property values, this is a tax increase that households will notice. For example, a Fishers home worth $208,000 back in 2015 will now pay 46% more property tax next year, compared to five years ago.

The proposed increase was a surprise because the 2020 property tax rate was expected to decrease. When the property tax rate was raised in 2019 by the mayor and the city council, they stated at that time that the 2020 property tax rate would be expected to decrease by three cents.

Despite these obvious concerns residents could have about the 2020 proposed property tax increase, Mayor Fadness presented the budget proposal without detail or rationale.

  • There was no mention of the 3.75 cent tax increase implemented in 2019 to fund, in part, the Nickel Plate Trail construction project (106th-126th Street phase) which has not been planned nor started yet.
  • There were no specific cost details or planned deliverables of what the 2020 tax increase would fund, which the mayor simply stated would be “concrete road repairs” at Technology Drive and Burberry Estates.
  • There was no proof that a new tax rate hike is necessary despite higher tax revenues generated by the projected increase in property values alone.

In addition, the budget presentation itself was delivered without consideration for Fishers residents’ comprehension and clarity:

  • Mayor Fadness’s public presentation of the 2020 Budget was delivered facing the City Council, his backside to the public audience.
  • The Mayor introduced the proposed tax increase in a Powerpoint slide comparing the projected unit tax rate with other cities. This made it impossible for residents to recognize that their property tax rate was increasing, and by how much.
  • The City did not accept the responsibility for increasing the tax rate on residents. In his presentation, the Mayor presented it as a roughly calculated estimate, not the very calculated decision it is.

Mayor Fadness announced the following:
“This gives you an idea of what we anticipate our municipal tax rate to be, going forward. This is a comparison of Hamilton County communities. We are looking at a 0.7115 tax rate for next year. So about a two-cent increase in the property tax rate. As you can see, the only community with a lower tax rate than us in Hamilton County is the town of Cicero. If we look at this with the 15 largest cities in the State of Indiana, we are the blue one right here, this is our anticipated tax rate for 2020. The only community in the State of Indiana of the 15 largest communities is Greenwood who has a slightly lower tax rate than us by six cents.”

The lack of clarity was the reason why during the public hearing that immediately followed the presentation––the only opportunity for the public to comment on the budget proposa­­­­l­––no Fishers resident rose to comment or ask a question. The hearing was quickly closed with No Comment. The City Council members praised the mayor’s proposed budget proposal and moved on to its next piece of business on the agenda. A few weeks later, some City Council members vaguely defended the proposed budget during a community forum, but failed to provide substantive information or rationale for the tax increase.

If I am elected to Fishers City Council as an At-Large member, I would demand that the presentation of the proposed municipal budget be considerate to taxpayers. The mayor should stand facing residents, explain to them the proposal, and explicitly ask for their support. Tax increases are serious. They deserve a serious and honest dialogue between city and residents.

The Fishers City Council will take final vote on this property tax increase and the entire 2020 budget at the October City Council meeting. It is anticipated that the City Council will approve the budget because they have approved every proposal from the mayor.

Now is residents’ chance to review the 2020 Budget and submit your comments to Mayor Fadness and the city councilors. Email them that they have not justified another property tax rate increase nor presented it to the public in a way that respects residents’ position as taxpayers and constituents. Attend the Monday, October 21, 2019, public City Council Meeting. At the meeting, the final vote to approve this tax hike will be taken by the city council members, your representatives.

Additional Resources:
Zillow Home Prices & Values – Fishers

2019 Fishers Budget Book
Fishers property tax rates 2012-2019 and 2020 estimate are found on page 51.

2020 Fishers Budget Presentation
Tax rate presentation is found on slide 18.
Note: There’s a typo on slide 17. This is 2019 actual budget and not 2020 recommended budget.

September 2019 Fishers City Council meeting, 2020 Budget Presentation by Mayor Fadness
Property tax rate increase is presented at 56:15

Contact your City Council members

Budget Presentation photo courtesy of Adam Kaps For Fishers