A number of residents turned out to hear the proposed Property Tax Reward Program discussed at the November 18 meeting of the Middle Township Committee. If adopted, the program is supposed to boost the use of local businesses by township residents and others while providing a property tax deduction for those who buy local. And, the best part, according to Mayor Lockwood in the township's press release, "The program results in no added costs to Middle Township and is a proactive effort to promote businesses in our community."
Well, that's not exactly what the folks heard at the meeting. According to Carmine DeFalco, who represented Fincredit, Inc., the company that would run the program for the township, marketing costs would be about $5,000 for the township. Property Tax Cards, which could be issued to all members of a family, would cost the township $1 for each card and window clings, whatever they are, would cost the township $2 each.
Meanwhile, Fincredit, Inc. would collect $10 a month from each participating business and get 25% of the rebate resulting from the proceeds of a sale by a participating merchant. The township would get the balance of the rebate, 75%, which is then applied as a credit to the buyer in the form of a property tax deduction. It's anybody's guess as to how much that would be. In the meantime, the only one who seems to be making out is Fincredit, Inc.
How about the participating businesses? Will all of the businesses provide the same discount to those with a Property Tax Card? Mr. DeFalco said, "No." He had the same response when asked if competing businesses in the same field, restaurants, for example, would be required to have the same discount. So the restaurant with the deepest discount would have the advantage. DeFalco said, "That's competition." So much for a level playing field.
Mayor Lockwood was asked after Mr. DeFalco's presentation, "Why can't the township set up a program on which everyone could agree to provide a certain discount to those who patronize their business instead of having an outside company come in and make a profit from local businesses . The details would not be too difficult to work out and some kind of incentive might also be part of the program. Local businesses would be the beneficiaries and that wouldn't cost the township a dime." The mayor had no answer.
Beau Weisman, Editor