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My Tourist Town Tax Test

The other day I read the Paul Mulshine story Bye-bye-bennie day: The greatest day of the year at the Jersey Shore and found the last few paragraphs sort of interesting and related to some of the discussion we’ve been having in Belmar.  Mulshine comments on the sort of comments he’s expecting to get about the story:

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Several people in Belmar have been pointing out that the tax dollars collected from tourists goes to the state and not to the town.  Yet we have to pay to police them when they misbehave and to rescue them when they get themselves into trouble.  The argument that if the bars and restaurants do well then the value of commercial properties will increase and more property tax will be collected just doesn’t hold any water…or in our case…beer.  First of all, many diners and drinkers are visiting properties that are under redevelopment law and the value of these properties doesn’t really matter.  They don’t pay property tax.  They either make “payments in lieu of taxes”, which do not change with the value of the property, or in the case of property owned by the town they pay rent.  The rents are set for decades to come.

Secondly, even though business seems to be booming in Belmar, commercial property values have been in decline and with the latest revaluation they will be paying fewer taxes.

I don’t know where Mulshine gets his information on tax rates of tourist towns vs. towns without tourist attractions but I decided to do my own informal survey.  Let’s look at the effective tax rates for some of the shore’s tourist oriented towns and those of their less touristy neighbors to the north and south.

Here is the page that you can find the tax rates on:

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I excluded Cape May because its tourists are mostly in their 70s and 80s and are there for the antique shops.  I also excluded Ocean City because it is alcohol free.

So first lets look at Wildwood.  In Wildwood City, where all the clubs and such are, the effective tax rate is 2.190.  Wildwood Crest, it’s more sedate neighbor to the south has an effective tax rate of 1.225, its neighbor to the north, North Wildwood, 1.131.

Atlantic City, further up the coast, is not really a good example because it is a fairly big city with all of New Jersey’s big city problems.  But its tax rate is 3.180, compared with Ventnor’s 2.153 to the south and Brigantine’s 1.659 to the north.

Long Beach is also not a great example because while it does have some bars and restaurants it also has lots of really high end mansions.  For what it’s worth its tax rate is .890.

Seaside Heights, though, is a great example.  The town that really exemplifies Jersey Shore tourism has a tax rate of 1.833, yet residents of Seaside Park next door enjoy a tax rate of 1.243.  Ortley to the north is part of Toms River but next up is Lavellette with a tax rate of .828.  Way to go Lavallette!  And congratulations on your beautiful new $5 million borough hall/police station/post office!

Further up we have, across the channel from each other, Point Pleasant Beach and Manasquan.  Both are pretty touristy and have tax rates of 1.358 and 1.319 respectively.  But Bay Head to the south is only .806 and Sea Girt to the north .756.

Now Belmar, whose leadership is always hungry for more visitors, more bars and more restaurants even though we already have plenty of all that.

Our effective 2014 tax rate was 1.286.  Our good friends to the south in Spring Lake paid .696 and our other good friends to the north in Avon, 1.042.  (I might add that our municipal debt is more than double Spring Lake’s and Avon’s combined.)

So there you have it.  By my calculations Mulshine was right.  Tourists cost the locals more than they bring in.


  1. OLD MAN wrote:

    Always have always will.

    Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 12:09 pm | Permalink
  2. Katrina wrote:

    i personally have found it very odd that we haven’t had a tax increase in 5 years. We were ground zero for Sandy and have borrowed millions. I noticed at the last council meeting about Maclearie Park it was stated by the Council TWICE that Belmar has No money. I guess that’s the way they are starting to warn us the day of reckoning is near!

    Friday, September 11, 2015 at 8:00 am | Permalink
  3. Nomoremoney wrote:

    Belmar had no money you say???? You mean we have no Money in reserve, rainy day accounts? Were the reserve monies set aside to settle lawsuits or pay higher insurance premiums as a result of so many losses due to mismanagement within this administration?

    Monday, September 14, 2015 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

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