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Belmar’s Fantasy

From the Superior Court of New Jersey, in a decision handed down August 29, 1989, that strickly limits Belmar’s use of beach funds:

“It is clear that the statute directs it’s “reasonable fee” standard to the municipality, however, this fee must be reasonable in relation to the municipality’s expenses incurred as a result of the beachfront.  This is not to say that Belmar can “fantasize” that it is an inland community and allocate any additional costs above and beyond it’s imaginary expenses as an inland community.

Belmar, as a beachfront municipality,  benefits overall from the shore attraction.  This is an added benefit, or in some cases, a burden to the municipality that comes with the territory.

We are all familiar with the burdens associated with being a resort town, and hopefully we are using the beach funds for every expense that we can legitimately charge to the beach in the eyes of the state.  But as Judge Milberg points out in the above passage, there are benefits that are Belmar’s alone to enjoy.  The most obvious one is our thriving hospitality industry.  Another one, at least from a financial viewpoint, is the fact that half of the houses in town are summer houses.  Many of these houses are quite valuable and their owners pay a lot of property tax.  Think about that.  Something like half of our property tax receipts come from people who do not use our schools and only use a fraction of other services such as trash removal.  If all the housing stock here were to be year-round occupied, as the housing stock is in inland towns, Belmar’s budget, if nothing else were changed, would probably need to be half again as big as it is now.  But property tax revenues would be the same.  The tax rates would need to increase dramatically to support the government we have now.  So the budgeters at city hall should thank their lucky stars that, because of the distortions caused by the way we fund our schools and other services, their job is much easier than it is for people who do the same job for other towns. 

Another benefit: Our ocean is beautiful.  And the air smells great here, especially on foggy mornings.  

So let’s try to avoid “fantasizing” that we live in an inland town and that any expense associated with the summer crowds should be paid for by the beach.  Anyone who wants to live in an inland town is free to move.  As for me, I don’t fantasize about living anywhere more than a few blocks from the sea even if it made my taxes higher.  But as I point out above, it shouldn’t.

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