Skeptics heard on local shopping program in Middle Township

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Property tax incentive aimed at boosting economy

MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — Not everyone is sold on a program that could bring Middle Township residents a reduction on their taxes.

The Property Tax Reward Program would allow residents to swipe a card at participating businesses, and a percentage of the purchase would be applied to their taxes.

The more they shop locally, the less they would pay in taxes.

But resident Dolores Spaulding said at Monday’s Township Committee work session that she sees no benefits to participating in the program.

“If big businesses are not going to get involved, it has an odor to it. It’s not for us,” Spaulding said.

Small stores have been signed onto the Property Tax Reward Program since it was developed in 2010 in New Jersey, according Carmine DeFalco of Fincredit Inc. So far, however, big businesses aren’t willing to take part. The reward program is used throughout New Jersey, including in Essex County.

There are several chain stores in Middle Township, including Marshalls clothing store and Big Lots in Cape May Court House and Bed Bath and Beyond and Walmart in Rio Grande. Small businesses are also scattered throughout the township, with several business areas along Route 9.

People would receive a discount on their purchase at a participating business, and part of that percentage would be used to pay property owners’ taxes.

Middle Township Economic Development Council chairwoman Carol Struett said she has spoken to people about the program and they’re excited.

Some people aren’t, however.

The program would provide tax relief for those who have money to spend in the municipality, said resident Bette McGurk, who also owns Country Barn Florist in Middle Township. Others would be left out, she said.

“Our program is not social,” said DeFalco. The reward program is intended to be an economic driver.

He said that the property cards may not benefit businesses but would provide constant assistance for residents.

Mayor Dan Lockwood said residents don’t have to participate in the program.

He gave the example of someone purchasing a baseball ball glove at Just Sports on Mechanic Street in Cape May Court House instead of Walmart on Route 9 in Rio Grande.

DeFalco said that 25 percent of the rebate would be paid to Fincredit Inc., and the remainder would go toward the property owners’ third quarter tax bill. Participating businesses would set their own discount percentage.

“We expect the township stay behind the program,” DeFalco said.

The program would come at no cost to the township, Lockwood said.

But there would be marketing costs, however. That could be done on township property with billboards and social media could be used, as well, according to DeFalco.

According to DeFalco, Marlboro Township, which takes part in the program, spends $3,000 to $4,000 on marketing. He figures that Middle Township would budget $5,000 for the program.

The property cards would also cost the township a dollar apiece and the window clings, $2, according to DeFalco.

That’s where the sponsors would come in, according to DeFalco. He said banks have paid for the cards that were distributed to residents in other communities in New Jersey.

DeFalco said he has not seen negative comments on the program, so far.

Lockwood said the card program has the potential to help businesses and taxpayers in Middle Township.

Also, those who live in West Orange would save money shopping in Middle Township, if both municipalities are part of the program.

Several municipalities throughout the state are on board with the program, including West Orange in Essex County.

Those who rent a building or work in Middle Township would also be able to be part of the program. They would receive a rebate check at the end of the year, according to DeFalco.

Middle Township could opt out of the program at any time, according to DeFalco.

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