OCEAN CITY - City Council raised the price of seasonal beach tags by $5 on Thursday to avoid a steeper property tax increase.
Starting March 2, seasonal tags will cost $25 - or 25 percent more than last year. Pre-season tags will also go up from $15 to $20. They are available at City Hall or over the Internet at www.ocnj.us with a $5 shipping fee.
Last year, the city sold 125,000 seasonal tags, 59,000 weekly tags and 173,000 daily tags to generate $3.4 million.
Mayor Jay Gillian's budget contemplates raising $500,000 more in beach-tag revenue this year by increasing the price of seasonal tags. Without the additional beach fees, city taxpayers would be subjected to a 3.5 percent increase in the local purpose tax instead of the 2.5 percent proposed.
"Beach tags are probably the purest user fees we have," Business Administrator Michael Dattilo said.
Some residents balked at the higher fees.
Resident Bill Shaw, who belongs to the civic group Fairness in Taxes, said he would not buy tags this year. At a recent meeting, he said other FIT members said likewise.
"Five dollars is not a lot of money but 25 percent is a tremendous increase," he said.
Council President Michael Allegretto said the city did not consider the increase lightly.
"We put a lot of thought into it. Hopefully, we won't have to do it again in a long time," he said.
Councilman Roy Wagner dissented, suggesting vacationers might choose other resorts over the price of tags.
Councilman John Kemenosh suggested the city look to generate more revenue by offering ad space on lifeguard stands or even the lifeboats.
"Did you say ads?" asked Councilman Scott Ping, who owns Boyar's Market in Ocean City. "Like Boyar's delivers?"