Wildwood could again consider beach fees, says mayor

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WILDWOOD — Wildwood officials could again weigh implementing beach fees in the city, and possibly put the issue on the ballot in November, Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said Tuesday.

But, he stressed that the plans are far from definite.

“It’s just been kicked around,” he said. “We’ll look at it, see if that is something that would benefit the taxpayer.”

Troiano said beach fees are not yet planned to be discussed by the Board of Commissioners at its upcoming meeting, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 13.  

“I don’t know exactly where it’s at, but I would expect it is very, very close to discussions,” he said.

This isn’t the first time the city has considered charging beachgoers. At the start of 2013, officials had planned to hold a special referendum on the issue. That referendum was canceled, however, and officials around the island agreed that they would instead look to sharing more services.

While some services have been shared, such as the use of the municipal court between West Wildwood and Wildwood, as well as a tax assessor with North Wildwood, those services have not been able to offset rising taxes in the city.

Troiano said that beach fees would be a huge revenue generator for Wildwood, which recently adopted a municipal budget that included a 17-cent tax rate increase for property owners. About 10.1 cents of that increase is due to a reassessment Wildwood completed, which caused the city’s ratable base to drop from $1.54 billion to $1.41 billion. A majority of the remainder of the increase is due to more spending on public safety.

Troiano has also stated that the amount spent on beach maintenance creates a hardship for taxpayers. 

“It’s a lot of maintenance for a lot of beach,” he said. “We just can’t catch a break.” Maintaining the beach, Troiano has said, costs about $2 million annually.

When the city considered beach fees in 2013, officials believed the fee would create about $1.2 million in new revenue for its first year.

The beaches in the Wildwoods have always been free, and have been a tourism selling point for the past several years. The issue was polarized last time around, with several residents calling on the commissioners to impose the fees, while businesses claimed tourism would decline.

At that time, the Greater Wildwood Tourism Improvement and Development Authority publicly opposed the plan, and said Wildwood would stop receiving the $250,000 provided by GWTIDA for beach maintenance expenses, as well as its share of Tourism Development Fees, which offset beach event costs and the hiring of Class II police officers.

Troiano said it was wise to begin discussing the issue now, rather than waiting. He added that he would hold discussions with neighboring municipalities soon to see where they stood on the issue. Last year, North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest officials said they were not interested in pursuing beach fees in their towns.

Email Christie Rotondo at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or comment on this story at thewildwoodleader.com.

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