BELMAR, NJ — Belmar expects to dam up a deficit in its water/sewer budget with a new tiered rate structure that increases rates based on water usage.

In essence, property owners who use the most municipal water will pay more, under an ordinance adopted by the borough council on March 17 to modify water rates across the board. 

While the minimum quarterly usage fee for water/sewer will jump from $77.35 to $88.95 for property owners, the measure eliminates the $15.47 per-1,000-gallon rate for usage in excess of 5,000 gallons. Instead, it calls for the following tiered structure:

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  • $17.79 per 1,000 gallons for 5,000 to 25,000 gallons ($10.19 for sewer and $7.60 for water).
  • $19.57 per 1,000 gallons for 25,001 to 50,000 gallons ($11.21 for sewer and $8.36 for water).
  • $21.53 per 1,000 gallons for 50,001 to 100,000 gallons ($12.33 for sewer and $9.20 for water).
  • $23.68 per 1,000 gallons for 100,001 or more ($13.56 for sewer and $10.12 for water).

Property owners who have separated metered accounts for lawn sprinkler systems — as well as those who need to fill swimming pools — will be billed for water usage only, based on the tiered rates.

In addition, property owners who have multiple units will pay a quarterly surcharge of $50 per unit, starting with the second unit.

Mayor Mark Walsifer explained that the proposed rate structure is “the best solution with the least amount of people affected” by a water/sewer rate hike. “We are moving the heaviest user rates to people who use most amount of water,” he said.

A rate increase was initially brought to light as a possibility during the council’s February 8 when borough auditor Robert Allison projected the 2020 the water/sewer utility budget falling into the red by nearly $266,000 — primarily due to increases in expenses for capital improvements to the water/sewer system and the resulting debt service.

READ MORE: Belmar Mulls Water/Sewer Rate Hike ‘Plug Hole’ in Utility’s Budget

In addressing other ways to keep expenses under control, the borough has also stepped up efforts to crackdown on residents who use illegal sump pumps to send stormwater into the municipal sewer system — a prohibited practice that results in higher sewage treatment costs for residents and businesses.

Borough officials also are working on ways to increase the utility’s annual revenues, which have remained at about $3.2 million since 2017, while expenses have climbed nearly 15 percent over the past two years to more than $3.9 million.

The borough has identified some 900 units in multi-unit buildings that have not been billed for quarterly water usage, including some 104 units at Marina View Towers, an eight-story apartment building on River Road overlooking the Shark River.

In addition, plans are under way to meter all water usage at beachfront facilities, including the restrooms, showers and water fountains, so that the beach utility can be charged directly for those costs.

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