Shop TR Would Give Tax Cuts For Buying Local

Residents who participate in the Brick program get a card like this one. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)
Residents who participate in the Brick program get a card like this one. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

TOMS RIVER – Members of the Township Council want to introduce a program called Shop TR which would give residents tax relief for spending money locally.

Shop TR would allow Toms River businesses participating in the program to offer a set percentage of the sale to be deducted directly from the resident’s property tax bill.

“We always urge our residents to support our local businesses, but this provides incentives,” Councilman Terrance Turnbach said.

“Mutually beneficial programs like Shop TR are so exciting to offer because everyone comes out ahead,” Councilwoman Laurie Huryk said. “The residents save money while Toms River businesses gain customers who might otherwise have gone outside of the township for their purchases.”

Surrounding towns, like Brick, Point Pleasant Borough and Point Pleasant Beach, already have a similar program.

For example, from January of 2017 to January of 2018, Brick residents spent a total of $1.1 million at participating businesses, explained Darren Sirota, who oversees Buy in Brick. In exchange, they received about $65,000 in property tax rebates. About 5,700 families took part in this.

Brick started Buy in Brick in 2014. It is administered by FinCredit Inc. of Marlboro. FinCredit charged the township $10,000 to join the program. In Brick’s case, that fee was paid solely by River Rock Restaurant and Marina Bar in exchange for an advertisement on the card, so no tax dollars were used to join the program.

As an example of how Buy in Brick works, a township merchant signs up for the program and might offer a 10 percent discount (the percentage can vary) to their customers who have a Buy in Brick Card.

If their participating customer spends $100, they would still pay $100 but the business owner would keep $90 and $10 would go toward the program.

On the next third quarter property tax bill, the resident would get a credit for $7.50 of that $10 (FinCredit gets 25 percent). The more a resident spends at a participating business, the more credit they would receive on their property tax bill. Renters receive a check for the cash value, Sirota said.

From the program’s inception, 130 merchants have participated, but through attrition (some businesses close, some move out of town, some find that the program is not profitable for them) there are currently 65 businesses enrolled in the program, he said.

Businesses pay $10 a month to participate in Buy in Brick.

In Brick’s case, the cost of advertising for the program comes out of the Tourism Development Commission from licensing fees, food vendor and taxi licensing fees, and not tax dollars.

Berkeley also had FinCredit make a presentation during a Township Council meeting a few years back, but nothing materialized after.

Judy Smestad-Nunn contributed to this report.