How would you like to lower your property tax bill by eating in restaurants and shopping in stores that are in your home town? It would be possible if an innovative new measure becomes law.

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The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Ron Dancer allows New Jersey municipalities to authorize property tax reward programs in which residents who patronize businesses in their towns receive property tax credits on their tax bills.

"This is a 'shop local' program which is mutually beneficial for both homeowners and businesses who choose to participate," says Dancer. "It has the potential to significantly reduce a homeowners' property tax bill while bringing increased business to local shops without cost to the property taxpayer or the municipality. It's a win-win and will, I believe, serve as a model for towns throughout the U.S."

The township of Marlboro in Monmouth County, N.J. already has a similar program in place. Bayonne is the second Garden State municipality to implement the idea.

How the Concept Works

Under the plan, a 3rd party vendor would be contracted by a municipality and accrue and track the credited amount to each property taxpayer. Homeowners will have that printed on their tax bill showing how much their bill is being reduced.

The vendor pays the total to the town of the savings accumulated by each property taxpayer. In essence, the businesses that participate are paying the difference between the property tax assessment owed and what the homeowner must shell out. The idea from the retailers' perspective is to drive business to their store in the discount they offer. The taxpayer gets a credit off their bill, the town still gets the revenue assessed and the 3rd party vendor gets a fee that the retailer pays.

"It's time for government to think out of the box," says Dancer. "We need to find innovative and responsible ways to reduce the property tax burden on our residents. This legislation will go a long way in achieving that."

The Assemblyman says his bill ensures there is no government interference, which helps keep costs down; ensures businesses are not subject to additional regulations, and authorizes the state to print the property tax credit information on a town's property tax bill. Under current law, only information authorized by the state may appear on local tax bills.

The program would also be open to renters who would get a check for their reward credits.

"This bill is specifically designed to keep government out of the process," says Dancer. "Under previous administrations property tax relief programs were administered by the state which drove up costs. Under this measure, government will not have its hand in the till. The rewards program will result in direct credits to homeowners or an annual check for renters."