Jersey City’s Urban Enterprise Zone coordinator lauded what towns have been able to accomplish with UEZ funds down through the years, and lamented the ever-tightening regulations and the governor’s intention of ending the program.
Roberta Farber, one of several panelists at a UEZ discussion Tuesday at Thomas Edison State College, told an audience of municipal officials and other UEZ professionals that at one time, UEZ dollars were some of the most flexible funds towns saw.
“In Jersey City, it saved millions of dollars,’’ she said. Towns were permitted to build roads, beef up police and help turn distressed urban areas around.
The program offered participating businesses tax credits for new hires and forgave sales taxes on personal property purchased for use at the business location, among other benefits.
“The purpose was to bring customers into towns,’’ she said. The program is one of the few tools towns have to lure new businesses and retain existing ones, she explained.
“That money is all gone,” she said in reference to Gov. Christie’s suspension of the program last year. “If the governor’s budget goes through, it will wipe out any money municipalities have left.”
She said UEZ coordinators are receiving daily phone calls from businesses and professionals about how to proceed. “Businesses are going to suffer,’’ she said.
The program was put on by the state chapter of the American Planning Association, which intends to use the comments from Tuesday’s session to develop a position on the program that it will forward to legislators.