Union’s Property Tax Reward Program helps township residents who shop locally

UNION, NJ — In an effort to welcome the public back to local businesses, the township is promoting and expanding its VIP Card, which is like a rewards card that offers property tax credits for homeowners and rebates for others.

“The Union VIP program is an active program established in 2016 by the town through the Special Improvement District to reward residents for shopping locally,” Union Township Director of Economic Development Carlos Sanchez said on Friday, May 14. “The program has been around for residents to shop at the participating local businesses while earning credits toward their individual property tax bill.”

West Orange has a similar program.

Union Township Chamber of Commerce Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Jim Masteron explained how it works on Friday, May 14. “A business — for example, a restaurant — would offer a certain discount, such as 5 percent off your meal. If the person has the VIP Card, that amount is then deducted from their property taxes. … If you don’t live in Union and you’re an outside resident but still use that program, you get a check at the end of the year. Same if you’re a renter in Union. It’s a win-win for everyone.

“The township of Union has actually had this program for a number of years in the downtown section of Union. Now, they’re expanding it to other parts of the town,” he added.

A webinar will be offered on Wednesday, May 19, at 9 a.m. to introduce residents to the program and explain its expansion, as well as broaden the scope and introduce the program to all chamber members. To attend the webinar, go to https://zoom.us/j/99185419179?pwd=emtDZTBDU1p1NThtWjBhdUhaQ3hsQT09.

“Now, it’s going outside of Union Center and will be able to apply to any business in the township,” said Masteron. “Any business that wishes to join can join and it’s open to all … no matter where they are in Union. … We’re excited and we have speakers that will give more details to our merchants.”

Sanchez said the purpose of the webinar is to ensure that businesses and residents are aware of how the program works and how it will benefit both residents and small businesses in Union. It is designed to encourage residents to “shop in your town/locally,” while increasing foot traffic for the business corridors. The more you shop locally, Sanchez says, the higher your tax credit will be.

“For merchants, it gives them a competitive edge, because, would you rather shop at a place that’s going to help lower your property taxes with a rebate or go somewhere else that won’t?” Masteron said. “It’s like an extra incentive to use the businesses in our township, make them successful and give our residents a benefit as well. We want people to shop local. We want people to use those businesses that support our township and support our kids.

“For example, when local nonprofits in town go to businesses and ask for donations to different things, they do and they’re supportive,” he continued. “Not the big bucks places or the national online places, but our local folks always support our town. We want to give back to them and we want to support them as well.”

Sanchez said the Property Tax Reward Program provides property tax incentives for township residents to keep their purchasing dollars in Union. When making a purchase at a local business registered in the program, a resident submits a registered Union VIP Card along with the payment.

“The merchant processes the card, resulting in a property tax credit representing a percentage of the sale amount,” Sanchez said. “The reward amount is collected weekly by a private company and deposited, net of program fee, into a township-dedicated account earmarked for the reduction of the cardholder’s property taxes. The company submits a payment file to the township annually, along with the payment of all accrued credits. Since the procedure is the same as that of banks making property tax payments for their borrowers, there is no additional burden on township personnel.”

Those who register for a card are given a list of participating businesses. “If you go to a lot of places, you can maybe get $500 off your property taxes for the year,” said Masterson. “If you’re a renter and you don’t have a house, you’ll get a check at the end of the year. … If you live in Kenilworth, but you shop in Union and you participate in the program and go to those places that offer this program, you’ll get a check at the end of the year.”

Masteron said this is one way that they hope to promote local shopping.

“It’s exciting to see everyone opening up and it’s about time,” said Masterson. “We’ve had new businesses opening, even during the pandemic. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by that, and we’re working hard as a chamber to make sure that they can support it and they thrive.”

Sanchez said the program is geared toward supporting the small business community in all local business corridors, including the Center, Chestnut, Vauxhall, Route 22 and Morris Avenue.

“This program will be one of the programs supporting the revitalization of our small business community that has been extremely impacted by the pandemic,” said Sanchez. “The restrictions, shutdowns and limitations during the state of emergency have impacted our businesses, and, therefore, a program such as the Union VIP Property Tax Reward Program will be of value to the business community and our residents.”

To get a Union VIP Card, call 908-851-5466 or email fraymond@uniontownship.com.