Starting this summer, a new State Senate task force will be looking at the issue of beach fees in New Jersey.

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The funds collected are supposed to be used for maintenance and life guards and such. The panel will survey shore towns to make sure the beach fees are being used properly.

One of the sponsors of the measure that established the task force says it is very unlikely that the state would ever completely eliminate beach fees.

"I wish all the beaches could be free, but the fact is over the decades towns have come to rely on this (the fees)," says State Senator Jim Whelan, a former life guard in Atlantic City. "The reality is that over the decades towns have come to rely on this and to take it away now is going to shift that burden back to the property owners."

Does Sandy Federal Relief Package Erase Need for Beach Fees?

In the wake of the Superstorm Sandy federal relief package, many believe there is no longer a need to charge beach fees anywhere in New Jersey. Whelan says most of that relief money is going to beach replenishment, not general upkeep costs.

While the task force isn't likely to suggest eliminating the beach fees, members of the panel could ask certain towns to lower the cost for a beach tag.

"If we found that some of the fees are too outrageous we would recommend that we look at ways to make sure that they're more affordable," explains Whelan.

He says accessibility will also be a focus, "In south Jersey, in most of the towns with beach fees you can buy the tag right on the beach. You go on the beach and there's somebody there who will sell you a tag. In some towns up north that's not the case. You go to the beach and they say, 'Well, you gotta buy a tag.' (You ask), 'Well, can I buy one?' and they say, 'No, you gotta go to City Hall.' Well, City Hall's closed."

The task force would be composed of nine members appointed by the President of the Senate as follows: two members of the Senate, one of whom would chair the task force; two mayors of shore municipalities bordering the Atlantic Ocean.

The duty of the Senate Beach Fee Task Force would be to study the beach fee revenue budgeting and expenditure policies of shore municipalities in the state, and to make recommendations on how to increase their efficiency and transparency and help ensure that beach fee revenues are solely used to fund services and facilities related to beach maintenance, safety, and recreation.

The task force would be required to report its findings, conclusions, and recommendations to the Senate within six months following the original appointment of all members of the task force.

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