State Sen. Michael Doherty, R-Hunterdon, Warren, and Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Salem, Gloucester, Cumberland, have introduced legislation that would require towns that accept federal and/or state aid for rebuilding their beaches to provide beach and restroom access for free. This legislation fails to recognize the annual costs paid by the local municipalities for maintaining beaches and restrooms.
If this legislation is passed, the only people who would be paying for recurring costs (beach maintenance, lifeguards, etc.) would be the residents of that beach town in the form of their annual local taxes. A law that mandates free access to New Jersey beaches places the burden of all recurring costs of maintenance on local residents only.
On its face, this legislation appears to have merit and a person who is not negatively affected might think it makes sense. But they would be wrong. This legislation is totally unfair to beach town residents and must be addressed.
I propose a beach fee that would fairly share the town's annual beach costs. A beach town resident would pay "X" amount for a beach badge. This resident already contributed to beach replenishment three times in the form of federal, state and local taxes. New Jersey residents of a town not on the beach would pay two times "X" since they already contributed to beach replenishment twice in the form of federal and state taxes. People from out of state would pay three times "X" since they only contributed to beach replenishment in the form of federal taxes
This approach to sharing recurring costs based on the taxes paid for beach replenishment is fair and equitable and will keep our beaches both viable and a useful resource.
The town's value for "X" should be established so as to result in that town's overall beach-badge revenue equaling the projected costs for maintenance.
In the alternative, I strongly suggest this proposed legislation be rejected, and we continue to allow each town to independently regulate beach access fees in support of their recurring costs. The beaches and shoreline are one of the most important natural resources in the state. Let's not pass legislation that will ensure they can no longer be supported.
FRANK X. CAVALLARO