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Long Beach council votes to raise beach pass fees

Beachgoers take to Long Beach Saturday, July 25,

Beachgoers take to Long Beach Saturday, July 25, 2015. Credit: Barry Sloan

Long Beach City Council Members voted Monday night to increase some beach fees on seasonal and visitor passes, while leaving resident $12 daily beach passes unchanged.

The City Council voted 4-1 on the fee hike, with Councilwoman Eileen Goggin dissenting on raising any fees. The new beach passes go on sale at 9 a.m Tuesday at the Long Beach Recreation Center.

Long Beach officials held a special meeting Monday to vote on a revised set of fees after residents objected to a round of fee hikes proposed at last week’s meeting. The new visitor daily beach passes were raised to $15.

City officials have sought to subsidize a $1 million annual loss for operating the beach by increasing the cost of beach passes and admission.

Though residents and council members have sought to increase the fees on visitors first, a state court ruling stated they cannot increase fees on visitors without also increasing fees on residents by a 2-1 margin.

As originally proposed, the fee hike would have created $1.5 million in new revenue, but the compromised fee hike approved Monday should raise $1 million in new revenue to cover the city’s cost of beach maintenance, insurance and staff overtime.

Several council members said the city was forced to increase fees to cover the operational losses in the budget or face department cuts or cutting into reserves that could raise the city’s interest rates for bonds.

“For so much this beach offers, I think this beach is worth $15,” Councilman Anthony Eramo said. “I think it’s such a beautiful beach that visitors will still come.”

Goggin was the most vocal opponent to raising beach fees, arguing that residents should not have to face additional fees. Residents are already facing an additional 3.9 percent tax hike in the proposed budget and a 15-year 4 percent tax resulting from a $20 million judgement from the Superblock development, Goggin said.

She said the city could not count on another record year of revenue to balance the budget after selling $3.8 million in beach passes last year.

Goggin questioned why the fee increases were imposed this year and worried visitors would go to Jones Beach or Rockaway beach with lower fees. She added it would increase the risk of drownings after hours.

“We will scare people away who would otherwise shop in stores and restaurants. It amounts to gambling with taxpayer money,” Goggin said. “It will send a message that Long Beach is exclusive, and unless you have money, you cannot enjoy our beach.”

Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman said the council can explore eliminating the 3.9 percent tax hike, but will have to face “tough choices” in eliminating expenses or finding other ways to make up revenue.

As approved, nonresident admission would raise to $15 from $12. The original proposal would have increased nonresident passes to $16. Passes for children 12 and under remain free.

The new fee schedule would charge residents $70 for an annual family pass that covers two adults and two children, up from $60. Nonresident family passes would cost $140.

Adult season passes, for those between the ages of 18 and 61, would sell for $50 for residents, up from $40. Season passes for nonresident adults would be $100 instead of the current $80. Children’s season passes, for ages 13-17, would cost $25 for residents and $50 for nonresidents.

Resident senior passes for those 62 and older would sell for $15 while senior nonresidents would pay $30.

Disabled and veteran passes would remain unchanged at $15. Officials originally proposed increasing the cost of those passes to $20.

Economy beach passes that are valid for 10 visits would sell for $100 to residents and $120 to visitors.

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