By Lauren Wanko
“This is going to be big. This is going to be the way we offer discounts in the future. Why not? You go in, eat your way to lower property taxes,” said Ocean Township Mayor Christopher Siciliano.
It’s called Own Ocean — a property tax rebate program for residents in Ocean Township. It’s funded by the small businesses in town. Those that sign up choose the discount they want to offer customers who will use a card in stores.
“Every time they use it there’s a magnetic strip on back and with a lot and block number. They’ll swipe that at participating merchants and instead of getting an instant credit, the credit goes towards their property tax at end of the year,” Siciliano explained.
Here’s how it works. Say your bill is $100 at a participating business that chooses to offer a 10 percent credit; 2.5 percent of that goes to FinCredit, the local company administrating the program; 7.5 percent is applied to your property tax bill.
“For us it was a no-brainer to jump on board,” said The Domesticated Dad Catering Company co-owner Michael Young.
“We just decided we give discounts anyway, we do coupons, we do promotions. Why not do one that helps the whole community?” said The Domesticated Dad Catering Company co-owner Jennifer Young.
At The Domesticated Dad Catering Company, eggs sizzle on the grill and sandwich wraps are rolled in time for lunch. Owners Jennifer and Michael think the program will do more than just bring in more customers.
“As a small business, we want to not just serve our customers, we want to get to know them,” Michael said.
So far 20 businesses have signed up for the program. The mayor says he’s getting calls every day. Residents will be mailed cards this summer. There’s no fee to sign up. Businesses pay FinCredit a $10 monthly fee to participate. The discounts offered and residents’ accounts will be uploaded on a website. Siciliano got the idea from Marlboro’s mayor.
“Last year Marlboro business owners on the program increased their business by $1 million. They returned $65,000 in tax credits,” Siciliano said.
The Own Ocean Property Tax Rewards Program isn’t just for homeowners. It’s open to anyone who lives in town, including renters. They’ll get a rebate check at the end of the year.
“We have over 3,000 rental units in Ocean Township so you can imagine how that could add up,” Siciliano said.
Jennifer and Michael plan to offer a 10 percent credit to customers. They make brown bag breakfast and lunch meals. She agrees it can add it up.
“Over the course of one school year per student you’re talking about $700 just at the very basic level for lunches,” she said.
“So at end of the week maybe it’s $12 to $13 but times 50 weeks, imagine what that could really be,” Siciliano said.
The program’s expected to start July 1.