CAPE MAY POINT — Borough Commission has introduced an ordinance to offer free beach tags to veterans and active-duty military personnel.
The ordinance, if adopted at a public hearing later this month, would mean every beachfront community in Cape May County that sells beach tags now has a program to waive the fee for the military.
The perk, allowed under state statutes, began several years ago in Sea Isle City and spread to other towns. Cape May adopted a similar program this year.
Commissioner Robert Moffatt said the tags would be offered to individual veterans who want to bath or fish on the beaches. For active-duty personnel, the tags are being offered not only to those serving but also to their spouses and children. Moffatt said the program will also cover the National Guard.
“Not just the New Jersey National Guard. We’re doing any National Guard, Pennsylvania or whatever,” Moffatt said.
Moffatt is not sure how much demand there will be but said the new program is a factor in a second ordinance the commission introduced on Thursday night. That ordinance would raise beach tag prices.
The ordinance would raise the daily tag from $7 to $10, the weekly from $17 to $20 and the seasonal from $27 to $30. The pre-season tag, only sold in the month of May, would remain at $22.
Moffatt said a new state law increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 an hour, which means raises for the beach tag checkers, is also a factor in the price increase.
“We don’t want to raise it but we have no other way to support the beaches. We have free parking. Every year it’s a challenge to staff our beaches,” said Moffatt.
The beach program here historically loses money. Tag sales brought in $140,000 last year but expenses were more than $170,000 and that does not include beach protection projects.
The town, which has frontage on the ocean and Delaware Bay, has sold beach tags since 1972 and had lifeguards as early as 1910. Actually, there was one lifeguard in 1910 and his duel job included lighting the town’s streetlamps every night. In 1920 the lifeguard also did water and light inspections for $2.50 per day, and in 1924 the town marshal got the job of guarding the beaches.
The beaches have no concession stands or parking meter revenue to help defray the costs, and there is some uncertainty about how many free tags will be given out. Neighboring Cape May is budgeting for $24,000 in lost revenue from its program.
“We don’t think we’ll get too many of them but it’s hard to forecast what it will do to the budget,” said Borough Administrator Kimberly Hodsdon.
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