BELMAR, NJ — In need of a revenue boost to operate its beachfront this season, Belmar’s beach badge fees will rise across the board, beginning March 1.
The borough council on February 5 approved an increase in the cost of seasonal badges from $55 to $70, seasonal badges for seniors and disabled individuals from $15 to $30, and daily badges for anyone age 16 and older from $8 to $9.
It scrapped plans for a new junior badge for 12- to 15-year-olds that would have carried a $30 price tag for the season. As a result, beach entry will remain free for children up to age 15.
Belmar Mayor Mark Walsifer said that the junior badge proposal was not part of the final badge pricing package because the classification is not allowed under state law, which would supersede any local ordinance.
“If we lowered the age (for free beach access to age 12) we would have had to charge full price for 12-year-olds, and we didn’t think that was right,” he said, adding that borough officials plan to meet with its legislators to discuss making a change in state law to allow for a junior badge.
The new badge was proposed to prevent older teenagers from getting on the beach for free, claiming they are younger than they actually are — a chronic problem for Belmar’s gate attendants, who have no way to verify their ages.
Also to keep in line with state law, the qualifying age for senior badges is increasing from age 62 to 65.
During the February 5 meeting, Steve Lemoine of C Street was one of two residents who expressed their opposition to doubling the price of the senior badge. “I wish my Social Security went up 100 percent … The burden (to increase revenues through beach fees) is being placed on the seniors,” he said, adding that the increase is excessively high.
Mayor Walsifer countered that the cost of Belmar’s senior badge has been excessively low over the years and is now comparable to what other Monmouth County beach towns charge. “We didn’t think $30 for seniors is way out of line,” he said.
Even with the beach badge hikes, Belmar still has best seasonal deal around among southern Monmouth County beach towns — tied with Asbury Park, where beach badges currently go for $70. READ MORE
Several major factors contributed to the hike in badge prices: Flat beach badge sales for the past two rain-dampened summers, increasing beachfront costs during that time and the need for better pay to attract more lifeguards and other beach employees, including gate attendants and cashiers.
In addition, the beach utility’s budget bottom line is being affected by a $130,000 rent reduction for the Shore Break Grill beachfront concession in the Rowland 10th Avenue Pavilion to settle a breach-of-contract lawsuit and loss of rent revenue from the departure of longtime vendor Exit 98 from its boardwalk location.
Walisfer also announced at its February 5 meeting that the two new expenditures will be paid through the beach utility: the bulk of a $120,000 settlement of a lawsuit by three Belmar lifeguards and immediate repairs to the Rowland 10th Avenue Pavilion before the start of the summer season.
The public safety building that was constructed after Superstorm Sandy and houses beachfront police, fire, fire aid and lifeguard operations has never fully opened due to excessive water infiltration into the structure during heavy rains.
“Water is just pouring into (the building) and it gets ruined every time it rains,” Mayor Walsifer said, adding that the borough is investigating who is responsible for the building’s design deficiencies, but it cannot hold up making repairs while that determination is being made.
“We have to use (beach utility) funds to take care of that building right away,” he said.
Without additional beach revenues, Belmar residents could be facing a tax hike to fund the borough’s beach utility, which has nearly depleted its surplus funds, according to borough officials.
Under the new beach badge fee structure, free beach access will continue for all military veterans and active-duty military members. It will no longer apply to individuals in law enforcement and first-responders, as it had in recent years — in line with what’s permitted under state statute, according to borough officials.
The last time the borough council raised beach badge fees was in 2014 for the 2015 season, with the seasonal rate rising by $5 to $55 and the daily rate by $1 to $8. The senior rate remained unchanged at that time.
Badges are required for entry to Belmar’s 1.3-mile beachfront from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends only from Memorial Day weekend until the full season starts on the third Monday of June. Badges are then required every day until Labor Day.
Belmar beach badges for the 2019 season can be purchased at the Belmar Municipal Building, 601 Main Street, or through the CommunityPass online registration system, which can be accessed by clicking here.
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