(SALEM) - The cost of being buried in Crown Hill Cemetery in Salem is going up.
It's been over a decade since some rates were adjusted, according to Mayor Dave Bower, who asked a committee to study the issue and make recommendations to the city council.
While Crown Hill is a city cemetery, the majority of burials there are for people who live outside the city limits. In 2011, 63 percent of burials were for those outside the city. There were 69 out of city burials and 43 for city residents last year. Sexton Dale Jonas said that rate has been consistent for the past three years, fluctuating just a percent or two.
Bower said, given those numbers, it's not fair for city residents to bear the brunt of cemetery upkeep.
Two years ago, the cemetery was taken off the tax rolls. The only way to maintain its self-sufficiency is to increase rates. Bower said it's not just the comparatively low rates that concern him, it's the idea of taxpayers having to pay for something they're not fully responsible for.
Jonas, Councilmen Justin Green and Wally Terkhorn, along with Salem Plan Commission member Adam Kelly studied the issue, researching what cemetery fees are in surrounding areas.
Currently, a grave opening at Crown Hill costs $425 during the week and $650 on the weekend. That's expected to rise to $500 on a weekday and $725 on a weekend. Some cemeteries charge more than $1,000 during the week and over $3,000 on weekends, the committee found.
The committee also suggested the council raise:
- Lot fees by $50 each year until all lots reach $700 each. Currently, lots range from $400 to $700, depending on location.
- Cremation and infant burial to $250 (up from $200).
- Concrete foundations to 32¢/square foot (up from 25¢).
Crown Hill operates on an annual budget of $124,920. Unlike most other departments, the bulk of that budget is not related to personnel costs, but to cemetery upkeep. During the spring and summer months, four mowers operate all week to mow the cemetery, including trimming around each individual grave.
Since Bower first took office, the staff has been reduced by one. During busy times, employees are pulled from other departments to assist, he explained.
The new fee structure is expected to take effect March 1.
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