By Adam Aasen
Two Hamilton County townships — Clay and Washington — are discussing whether to add a ballot referendum to see if the public is willing to support mass transit with a tax increase.
Cindy Benedict, project manager for Indy Connect, said the suggested 0.25 percent tax increase could generate $4.14 million from Clay Township, which represents Carmel, and $1.7 million from Washington Township, which represents Westfield. The measure would be added to the Nov. 8 ballot after the Indianapolis City-County Council approved its own mass transit referendum for the upcoming election.
Benedict said the cost would be minimal. For someone earning the median income in Hamilton County of about $86,000, the tax increase would mean $18 per month.
“For the median income, we are talking about a tall latte a week,” she said.
The money would help fund the Red Line, a rapid-transit bus route that has been in the works for years. The Red Line could cost around $200 million and is part of a larger $1.2 billion regional transportation plan.
Mo Merhoff, president of OneZone, which combines the chambers of commerce of Carmel and Fishers, said her organization has decided to support putting the referendum on the ballot. She expects OneZone to announce its support for or against the tax at a later date.
“It really is about economic development,” she said. “Other cities we compete against for site selectors have mass transit. And our employers tell us we need mass transit so workers can commute up here.”
Sean Northup, assistant director for the Metropolitan Planning Organization, said these two townships are being targeted rather than implementing a countywide tax increase because the Red Line would likely travel through these two areas of dense activity. He said the measure is to secure funding to get the Red Line up and running and future conversations will take place regarding specific details of the route.
“There are a lot of options on the table about how it would work,” he said. “That would be part of a broader conversation we will have later on.”
Both the Clay and Washington Township boards have held joint meetings to discuss adding the referendum to the ballot.