Borough Enterprise Zone Right for Jamesburg?

      Jamesburg has been hit with some of the most financially difficult times in history. After two years of a budget freeze and only a small increase this year, taxes can only rise in order to provide quality services and an excellent school system. Unfortunately, this can only happen at the expense of the taxpayer, who is burdened with their own costs and bills. There have been small grass-root movements to change the way school systems are funded through property taxes but not much has happened at the state level, where a constitutional convention must convene in order to change the sytem.

      Jamesburg cannot do much to increase its tax base. The town is literally 99% built up and there is no room left to grow within the 0.9 square mile area. The new strip mall and CVS on Forsgate Drive did help ease the burden this year but these businesses are not a permanent solution by far.

      With this in mind, a radical plan - unheard of in many places - has arisen from the mind of Assemblyman Bill Baroni. Modeling his plan after New Jersey's Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ), the Borough Enterprise Zone (BEZ) is beginning to take shape in order to help restore funding to small underfunded communities. Forty-seven of these small communities, Jamesburg included, are eligible for this special designation. The UEZ exists in communities near Trenton and in Perth Amboy and has been sucessful.

      A Borough Enterprise Zone is a special designation that would benefit the Borough of Jamesburg in many ways. By declaring Jamesburg a BEZ, sales tax would be cut in half - 3%. The remaing 3% would go directly to the Jamesburg Schools and Borough of Jamesburg. Doing this would encourage local area residents to shop within Jamesburg's border for a cheaper deal. Thus, Jamesburg's consumer and commerce base would grow substantially. Small shops in town are feeling the competition of larger discount stores and strip malls. This bill would help keep small businesses operating and profitbale. Many benefits for businesses would be included in this bill. According to the bill, "nonretail and nonwarehouse businesses will receive a one-time tax credit of $1,500 per each new full time hire who is a borough resident, unemployed for at least 90 days and dependent on public assistance. Businesses that hire outside of the borough will receive a one-time tax credit of $500 for each new hire. Businesses that don't qualify for employer tax credits will receive a one-time credit in the amount equal to 8% of each new investment."

      With this new plan, there have been mixed emotions from members of the Borough Council. In a tie breaking vote, Mayor Tony LaMantia voted yes in favor of going forward in supporting this zone. Some members of the council have mentioned that it may not be beneficial for Jamesburg because there could possibly a decrease in state aid. Assemblyman Baroni followed up saying that Jamesburg would only lose extraordinary aid, which is requested after state aid is given out. In place of the extraordinary aid is the substantial amount of money that could be raised through the 3% sales tax. This is an opportunity, or risk in some cases, that Jamesburg may need to pursue. The BEZ may be the best solution to property tax reform to date that has a chance of passing the New Jersey State Legislature. The bill was created bi-partisan by both members of the Republican and Democratic parties. Jamesburg Mayor Tony LaMantia and councilman Otto Kostbar both sat on a committee to create and review the BEZ with Assemblyman Baroni. Thus, this bi-partisanism ensures that each side's views were accounted for and the chances of the legislature passing such a bill is increased.

      The BEZ may be what Jamesburg has been waiting for. The incentives are attractive and the idea is novel. For a small town with no alternatives, taking this chance to change our community may be well worth it - you be the judge. In the meantime, support Jamesburg's businesses, support Jamesburg's schools, and most of all, support Jamesburg as a community.

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