March 1, 2013 at 5:53 PM
NEWTON, NJ - Town of Newton residents may be able to shop local, and save money on their property taxes while doing so.
Carmine de Falco, and Nick Campanella of Fincredit Inc., proposed their "Shop Newton" plan to the council, and public, at the town council meeting in Newton this past Monday night.
The idea, which has already been embraced by Marlboro, N.J., consists of a reward program for consumers who choose to shop local, with the incentive as savings on their property tax bill.
"The program was implemented in Marlboro six months ago, and there have been incredible results," de Falco said.
Consumers would receive a card, which could be swiped at participating merchants in the municipality. Once a resident shops at the merchant, the resident, in turn, accrues credits, which can be applied to their property tax bill.
Campanella explained the residents' block and lot numbers are cross-referenced to the card.
"Every time there is a swiped card, it applies to the block and lot," he said.
From there, Fincredit Inc. works with the tax office in Newton, and the portion the resident has accrued by shopping with a local merchant, is applied to the bill. The property owner would pay the difference owed to the town.
Campanella explained, for example, if a resident normally pays $10,000 a year in taxes, if they spend $1,000 locally, the resident will save $9,000 on their tax bill.
"The more that a resident shops locally, the more they're accumulating," Campanella said.
Participating merchants can offer discounts to shoppers as well, which residents can be alerted of, with email and Twitter blasts each Friday.
Plus, residents would have the ability to keep track of their savings on their purchases.
"By the time they are to their car, they can have an email [if retrievable from a smart phone or other mobile device] explaining what was spent and what the discounts were," Campanella added.
The program would have no cost to the Town of Newton, and merchants would be charged a $10 monthly fee to participate. In other municipalities where the program is underway, or on a trial basis, local banks have sponsored the costs of manufacturing the cards, and in turn, their logo would be imprinted on the card.
Campanella said Fincredit Inc., would maintain a website where participating merchants would be hosted on an online directory, and would receive a window decal, specifying they are a "Shop Newton," merchant. Fincredit Inc. would facilitate helping residents to register if needed.
Mayor Sandra Diglio had a special concern for Town of Newton Senior Citizens.
"We've presented the program, and enrolled them online," said Campanella. "We try to be as hands on as possible."
Tenants in town can also participate, and, will receive a check in place of the tax credit local homeowners would receive.
In most participating municipalities, de Falco explained, most credits are applied once annually, so as not to interfere with a resident's mortgage payment schedule. Merchant accounts are debited weekly, he said. He added how his company is absorbing ACH, and per swipe fees for merchants.
"We are absorbing a lot of costs," he said.
Fincredit Inc, works closely with merchants, as well as groups, such as local chambers of commerces, to help further the success of the programs.
Town of Newton Town Manager Thomas S. Russo, Jr., suggested marketing the card to those who work in Newton, such as at the Newton Medical Center, and to employees and students at Sussex County Community College.
Councilman Dan Flynn asked if a provider, such as a local lawyer, could register as a merchant. The representatives from Fincredit, Inc., said they could, and also provide a discount.
And in the long run, residents would not have coupons to clip for their savings.
"The card is a little more prestigious than cutting out a coupon," said Campanella.
Making Newton a "destination location," and extending the savings beyond the municipality, to residents in surrounding towns who would like to shop in town, was also explored.
Town attorney Ursula Leo commented about application of the idea. "Legally, it is not much consideration."
Leo said in order for the town to activate the program, it would only require a simple resolution.
"It's really up to the merchants," Leo said. "They're bearing the costs."
The program is being explored in other New Jersey towns including Highland Park, Caldwell, Bayonne, Pequannock, Manalapan, Old Bridge, Vorhees, and Sparta (click here for an article in The Alternative Press about Sparta). The program idea is expanding beyond New Jersey as well, to towns in the States of California, Florida, and Massachusetts.
In Marlboro Township, de Falco said residents have so far experienced $11,000 in tax savings.
The town and company will speak to the merchants and the Greater Newton Chamber of Commerce next in the town, for their feedback about the program.
In other business:
- The last tax revaluation in Newton took place in Oct. 2007, and Scott Holzhauer, the town’s tax assessor, explained the town is one of several in the county, along with Franklin, Ogdensburg, and Wantage, which will be subject to revaluations.
- The council discussed whether or not the historic commission should remain as it is, or if it should be disbanded, since the group has not been able to meet due to not having a quorum. If disbanded, the historic commission would be absorbed into the planning board.
- The 2013 budget will be introduced at the first meeting on March 11. There have been two budget workshops prior to this week’s meeting click here and here to read the previous articles in The Alternative Press The council continued to discuss particular line items at the last meeting.