The mayor of Union Township, Suzette Cavadas, spoke with NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams about the Union VIP cards program, which gives residents a property tax credit when they spend money at participating local businesses.
Williams: How is this program working here?
Cavadas: It actually has been around probably for over a year, our property tax reward program, where the Union Township works in conjunction with SID, which is the Special Improvement District, which is the businesses here in the center of town. And basically what we have done is we have created an incentive where if you shop locally, you actually get a credit back toward your taxes. But this doesn’t only apply to property owners. It also applies to renters. We have a rebate form where even renters who shop locally, who utilize the card actually get a rebate check by the end of the year for everything they’ve accumulated. At this time, we actually have over 20 stores participating in this program and it’s growing every single day.
Williams: Have you seen the push for more stores to want to get involved? Are stores demonstrating that they get a lot more business coming in?
Cavadas: Definitely. We actually started with a handful of stores and as this program has been growing and most of the stores have been hearing about it, the people have looked to enroll, the business owners, has increased tremendously.
Williams: So the stores get more business, the property owners and renters get rebates on their taxes. How does the town make money on this?
Cavadas: The town makes money by seeing our businesses in the center of town grow. It’s an economic boost for our town, which creates additional foot traffic, which helps our businesses here in the center of town grow and prosper.
Williams: Have you seen any resistance among residents here to shopping local as opposed to going to a big box store where they can get everything in one place?
Cavadas: Not at all. Most of our residents here are very excited to support mom and pop shops. And not only that, by supporting mom and pop shops here and locally, they’re also getting back a tax break on their taxes, the property taxes or a rebate if they’re renters.
Williams: You have a shopper’s card with you, right? Each township has its own shopper’s card that you pay with so the rebate money goes on that card?
Cavadas: That’s correct. This actually, the residents or the renters, they can obtain this card at our clerk’s office here in the center of town. And with this card, they just go to the business and the business will swipe that card and it gets automatically translated into the system where we can apply it towards their property taxes or give them a rebate because we have all their information when they register this online.
Williams: What would you tell a town like Newark, where there’s some resistance but they are considering doing this?
Cavadas: I think they should do it. I mean, this is a win-win. It’s a win-win for the town, it’s a win-win for the businesses and for residents because there’s no downfall, it’s all positive.
Williams: And do you see more businesses coming in here? More mom and pop shops growing as a result?
Cavadas: Of course. I mean, there’s businesses here in the center of town coming every single day. We’re actually, not to off track here, we actually are redeveloping right down the center of town where there’s new perspectives and investors that are looking to come into our town and invest in our town.
Williams: You estimate in the last year, how many new jobs have been created as a consequence of this program?
Cavadas: If I would have to estimate, probably in the thousands. Right now we have a surplus of 3,000 jobs.
Williams: Three thousand jobs here in Union Township?
Cavadas: That’s correct.
Williams: And how many just on this strip?
Cavadas: On this strip, I would probably say, probably close to 1,000. More or less close to 1,000.
Williams: I’m so glad that you came out today. Thank you very much for spending your time with us.
Cavadas: Thank you. I appreciate it.
Williams: And any time you have a new plan that you think can be transported elsewhere, let us know.
Cavadas: Definitely will. Thank you so much.