In its third year, a national campaign spearheaded by American Express designated this past Saturday as the day to “Shop Local” and stay close to home when making purchases.
As the backbone of our economy, the spotlight on the benefits of supporting local businesses was certainly timely and needed, but every day should be “Shop Bronxville” if we want our beautiful village to thrive.
The Morristown, N.J., community, which has been on the cutting edge of visionary practices with a proactive Green/Sustainability Committee, has embraced a plan for the long term health of their hometown, emphasizing the balance of economic development, environmental protection and community inclusion.
Interestingly and quite telling, the number one priority of the Morristown committee is to ask residents to buy locally what they would ordinarily buy at the mall, a big box store or on the Internet.
They grasp that keeping purchases local keeps money local; saves on fuel and ancillary transportation costs, encourages a walking environment, fosters a human connection between merchant and customer, supports those who directly support their community and increases property values in their town.
Net net, they understand that a vibrant business district is critical to the long term health, sustainability and high property values of their community.
This same forward thinking rationale clearly applies to Bronxville.
Our “downtown” is a treasure. It is the glue that holds the community together. Our business district is where all age groups in the village can connect as seniors and strollers share the same sidewalks. Our merchants are caring, generous people, many with long ties to the village. Our downtown businesses provide not only convenient access to quality goods and personalized service, they are the drivers in the all important sales tax revenues received by the village.
The sales tax revenue component is key to the success of every local budget nationwide. Fully one-third of all state revenues, totaling over $150 billion annually, come from the collection of a sales tax.
For every $100 spent in a locally owned independent store, $68 returns to the home community. The same amount spent at a mall or chain store returns $48 “home” and if spent on the Internet nothing comes back to the towns and villages.
Because of the increase in non-taxed Internet purchasing, Massachusetts estimates they “lose” $335 million in sales tax revenue and California pegs its “losses” at over $1 billion annually.
To put in a local context, in fiscal year 2007-2008, the village government received $911,718 as our share of the Westchester County sales tax proceeds. Without these funds, village property taxes would have risen 12 percent on this one line item alone just to maintain the current level of services and staffing.
In 2010-2011, the sales tax revenue dipped to $838,143 as Internet sales reached a zenith necessitating the village to trim staff hours and municipal services. Our dip in sales tax revenue mirrors what is happening throughout the nation.
Bottom line, if you shop online versus on Pondfield Road or Palmer Avenue, the sales tax savings you reap will eventually come home to roost in the form of higher local property taxes and/or a decrease in municipal services. In contrast, a purchase made in the village sends money directly back to our school and village government and sends a message that you are investing in the future of our small village and all that it adds to your quality of life.
As Mayor Bloomberg stated this week, these small businesses are the backbone of our economy, generating over half of all of the jobs in the country. They are the real job creators. When we add yet another government job, we have created just one employment opportunity. When a small business flourishes, there is a multiplier/ripple employment effect on the economy.
Shopping locally also delivers a much deserved message of appreciation to our merchants who support our village institutions year round. When one reads the auction catalogs or raffle books from all of our local charitable organizations and school fairs, names that appear as donors include Citrine, Silver Spoon or Silk Road, not Amazon.com or Overstock.com. In the end, we must support our supporters.
Bronxville shop owners are vested in our community, and offer personalized services as well as a personal relationship with their customers – a real human connection – something so lacking in all other avenues of commerce.
The unique ambience and the beautiful windowscapes that grace our downtown will remain a permanent attribute of our village only if we support the businesses inside. The vitality of our village depends upon it.