Shop Vernon Program Lauded by Harvard

Posted: May 6, 2015

Shop Vernon, a property tax incentive program designed to bring tax relief as a reward for shopping local, has been recognized by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, as a top 25 program in this year’s Innovations in American Government Awards competition.

The program enables homeowners to earn as much as 10% back on local purchases which will then be applied to their property tax bill for the year.

A resident simply presents his/her township-issued Shop Vernon card when making a purchase at a local business registered in the program. The merchant processes the card, resulting in a property tax credit representing a percentage of the sale amount. The reward amount is collected weekly by FinCredit Inc., program administrator, and deposited, net of program fee, into a township-dedicated account earmarked for the reduction of the cardholder’s property taxes. FinCredit submits a payment file to the township annually along with the payment of all accrued credits.

Since the procedure is the same of that of banks making property tax payments for their borrowers, there is no additional burden on township personnel. Presently, the property tax reward program is being adopted by ten other townships in New Jersey—Marlboro, Hillsborough, Voorhees, West Orange, Glassboro, Bayonne, Pequannock, Brick, Manalapan and Somerdale.

The Innovations in American Government Awards was created by the Ford Foundation in 1985 in response to widespread pessimism and distrust in government’s effectiveness. Since its inception, over 500 government innovations across all jurisdiction levels have been recognized and have collectively received more than $22 million in grants to support dissemination efforts. Such models of good governance also inform research and academic study around key policy areas both at Harvard Kennedy School and academic institutions worldwide. Past winners have served as the basis of case studies taught in more than 450 Harvard courses and over 2,250 courses worldwide.