Shop to Drop (Your Property Tax Bill)
When local residents shop in local stores and eat in local restaurants, their cities and towns benefit through increased tax collections. And while many municipalities and chambers of commerce have devised discount cards, special events and other incentives to encourage residents to shop locally, a company in New Jersey may have developed the one program that will really make a difference in shoppers' pockets and keep them in their own hometowns.
The Property Tax Card, developed by Fincredit Inc., is like a retail rewards card, but instead of earning coupons or discounts on in-store items, consumers who use the card at participating merchants are rewarded with credit on their property tax bills.
"The program is the first of its kind to focus on the local economy by providing property tax rewards," says Carmine De Falco, president and CEO of FinCredit Inc., based in Marlboro, N.J. "It truly is a win-win. The community relates to our program because it involves local merchants and, at the same time, puts money back into their pockets in the form of tax incentives, or if they rent or work in town, cash rebates."
Marlboro Township, N.J., was the first community to offer the Property Tax Card to its residents, and the program just closed its first full fiscal year with impressive results. Local merchants participating in the program closed $1.1 million in sales utilizing the "Shop Marlboro" card. Those sales resulted in $65,000 in property tax savings for residents across the community.
"We have residents that have earned as little as a few dollars to as much as $1,200," De Falco says. "With minimal effort, a homeowner can easily earn between $100 and $200 in annual credits."
With an average annual property tax above the national average, Marlboro residents are happy to get a tax break. And local businesses are happy to get their business. In addition to Marlboro, six other townships in New Jersey are also offering the Property Tax Card to residents, including Bayonne, Highland Park, West Orange, Voorhees, Pequannock and Vernon. And Fincredit anticipates launching programs in three additional communities this summer.
Not only do the cards help residents save money on their tax bills, but they also benefit local communities. The cards drive customers to local businesses, helping boost their profits as well as tax collections for city and county governments. And because the program is marketed by Fincredit and by the participating municipalities, local businesses don't have to pay for marketing.
"Local governments, more than ever, need to be business-friendly to attract new investments, lower vacancies and improve the local job market," De Falco says. "As for merchants, the program provides substantial local exposure at a fraction of the cost of other programs."
Most businesses pay about $10 per month to be involved with the program, much less than traditional advertising.