Cape May proposes more beach tag fee increases

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CAPE MAY -- For the second consecutive year, the city is proposing a beach tag fee increase.

“We want to maintain the quality of services, but we also have to account for increased costs – including beach replenishment contributions, the raise in the minimum wage voted through in the General Election, and rising insurance costs,” said Mayor Ed Mahaney.

Council discussed a proposed timeline for increasing the tag fees at its Dec. 2 work session. As set out, pre-season beach tag fees would increase from $15 to $18 until April 1 – when the seasonal rate of $28 would kick in. The three day tag, which is only sold in season, would increase from $10 to $12.

“These proposed changes would only affect the pre-season sales, and the three day tag price,” Mahaney said.

“We want to keep a fair and equitable distribution in fees for various tag types,” he said. “We want to provide access to all the various socioeconomic groups who use our beaches.”

Last year, local officials signed off on an increase to daily tag fees from $5 to $6, as well as the $3 dollar jump to $28 for the seasonal tag. Prior to that, daily tag fees had last been raised in 2009, and weekly tags in 2011.

A public hearing for the proposed changes is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Jan. 7.

Cape May offers seasonal beach tags – sold at a discounted rate in the preseason, weekly tags, three day tags, and daily beach tags. According to city information, the seasonal beach tag price of $28 does “not put us at the top by ourselves.” According to website listings, Cape May’s $28 seasonal badge fee nudges Cape May Point out of the top spot by one dollar. Locally, seasonal beach tags – after any “preseason” sales – are: $28 Cape May; $27 Cape May Point; $26 in Avalon and Stone Harbor; and $25 in Sea Isle City and Ocean City.

The bigger beach badge controversy last year was state legislators’ bid to prohibit beach tag fees where taxpayer funded beach restoration following Hurricane Sandy. State Senate President Stephen Sweeney proposed the changes along with state Sen. Michael Doherty.

Cape May joined other shore communities in opposing the plan, passing a resolution that cited beach tag revenues “as the essential mechanism to maintain our oceanfront beaches both as recreational bathing beaches and more importantly as shoreline protection systems.”

The language of the resolution asks that any proposal to eliminate the city’s ability to collect beach fees “without a corresponding commitment to replace the total revenue generated from beach fees” be opposed as “an unfunded mandate and not in the best interests of the City of Cape May.”

More than 200,000 people visit Cape May beaches yearly.

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