BELMAR, NJ — Since Belmar was court ordered this year to rollback parking fees along the beachfront — from $2 to $1 an hour — the borough is facing a major shortfall in meeting expenses to run its parking utility.
Now the borough is looking to bring back the $2 fee before the season’s end, but ensuring that all revenues are properly allocated to beach operations — a practice not followed by the previous administration and resulted in the lawsuit against Belmar for violating the state’s beach fee statute.
The Belmar Council on Tuesday, August 6, is expected to decide whether to re-establish the $2 beach fee — an ordinance introduced at its July 23 meeting — or announce another way it will address the dramatic plunge in beach parking revenue, falling 40 percent to $74,300 as of July 28, compared to the same period the previous year, when $124,000 was collected.
Belmar Chief Financial Officer Christine Manolio asked the borough council to consider returning to the $2 per hour parking fee after a detailed examination of the parking utility’s current financial picture, according to Mayor Mark Walsifer.
With parking fees remaining at $1 per hour, “we’re are not going to be able to pay for all the expenses, we’re going to be short on money” in terms of meter operations, including personnel costs, Walsifer said at the July 23 meeting. “(Manolio) has all the facts and figures … and she wants us to put (the fee hike) on the agenda. Then we will discuss it before the next meeting, and (decide) to table it if there something else we can do, or we’re going to have to raise the fee to $2.”
Under a 1989 court ruling, Belmar has been required since the summer of 1990 to maintain a separate beach utility account “in which all revenues collected by the borough, from beach admission fees and any other beach use fees, shall be deposited, and from which all expenditures for beach related costs will be paid.”
The borough must also ensure a 60/40 split of beach revenue between the beach utility and the parking utility — another factor that affects the parking utility’s operational budget. This year, the beach utility budget stood was nearly $5 million and parking utility account at $158,000.
The $2 per hour beachfront parking fee is in line with similar parking in other nearby beach towns, including:
-- Asbury Park: $2 per hour during the summer.
-- Long Branch, $2 per hour on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and a $1 on weekdays.
-- Bradley Beach, $1.50 per hour.
Overall, beach revenues (excluding parking fees) are up nearly $534,000 from the previous year — in large part due to increases in beach badge fees — reaching nearly $2.7 million as of July 28. In total, nearly 203,000 total badges have been sold, compared to some 178,000 in 2018. There has been a significant hike in daily badges—from 155,000 to 183,000, representing a revenue gain of some $407,300 to nearly $1.65 million alone.
In other beach news, there are now ATMs situated at the booths along the oceanfront and at the Taylor Pavilion beach headquarters at Fifth Avenue. The borough has switched to cash-only sales on all beach badges after encountering problems with its credit card processing system and being hit with “substantial costs” associated with credit card sales.
Under a resolution approved by the borough council on July 23, the borough cited an “emergency condition” to enter into an agreement with an unnamed “ATM company” that is paying the borough $6,000 to place seven ATMs along the beachfront.
According to the signage on the machines, they are operated by Coastal ATM, LLC, which is associated with The Passion Group, an Asbury Park-based event marketing and management company.
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