PORTSMOUTH – Fifth Ward Councilman Edwin Martell recently unveiled his Shop Portsmouth Program just last month.
The proposed program would designate a specific day. During that day, residents of the city who shop at participating Portsmouth businesses would earn 7.25% toward their annual property tax bill – or – a refund check at the end of the year if they are non-property owners.
“The more residents shop in Portsmouth, the more property tax credits they would accumulate toward their next tax bill. Or they could even get a refund to help with Christmas,” explained Martell. “It’s really a win-win-win. Merchants get more business. Residents get tax credits. And the city reduces building vacancies.”
Martell has been collaborating with fellow Councilman Sean Dunne to develop Shop Portsmouth, modeled after a similar program in New Jersey. In June, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed the new law, which allows municipalities to create incentive programs encouraging property owners to patronize local businesses via property tax incentives.
Business participation in the program is optional and will be completely free, according to Martell.
“Business owners will have a choice whether or not to participate,” he said. “But it will not cost them anything. I would love for this program to go citywide – not just to the downtown. Honestly, I think it could be really successful. I think it could bring in a lot of foot traffic to our stores. I think it will get folks to spend money in our shops. I think consumers will really appreciate the discounts on their property taxes or their refund checks at the end of the year. And the city will be pleased that property taxes are getting paid.”
Unpaid property taxes have long been an issue in Portsmouth. Hundreds of property owners are currently behind on their tax bills. This program is designed to help the city recoup a percentage of those debts and help consumers move toward good standing.
For now, the proposed program is still in its infancy. Will there be purchase limits on specific items? What software will be used to track purchases? How many days a year can the program be offered? These are questions Martell hopes to answer in the coming weeks.
“We are still working on the logistics of Shop Portsmouth,” said Martell. “But I think the council will get behind it. I think it’s going to gain some real traction.”
“Honestly, this is something that could be modeled in the county, too. Perhaps even the state. There is real potential with this program.”
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