“Cemeteries are for the living, not for the dead.”
I can’t remember who said that, but I feel pretty sure he wasn’t a Township Supervisor responsible for maintaining one. Whether I like it or not, I, unfortunately, am.
So we’re going to talk about cemeteries today, specifically, Maple Grove Cemetery; AKA Concord’s insatiable resource gobbler.
Within a few weeks of assuming responsibilities for this office last fall, by interacting with Sheryl, Judy and Bob, I identified two areas of serious financial concern for our Township that begged address: the cemetery and our permitting processes. Both were draining resources from our general fund because the fees we charged for them did not cover our costs. In the case of the cemetery, they still don’t. But then again, they never will.
Both are pay-as-you-go, fee driven services which, in theory at least, should be self supporting. In the case of our permits, the Township paid 84% of the fees we charged to our inspectors, leaving nothing to pay the retainer fees or other costs, thus keeping us in a financial hole. Fortunately, that was a simple fix which was taken care of at the January meeting. The cemetery is another matter.
If you add together all the revenues generated by the cemetery over the last seven years and subtract all of the costs associated with it, you wind up with an average annual loss of -$16,000.00. I don’t care how you slice it, that’s a lot of bread. Now don’t get me wrong, I do not think we should be turning a profit on the cemetery, the business metrics just can’t work like that. People don’t tend to die on cue for one thing, so it’s difficult to predict your revenue stream. And your costs are inextricably bound to the expectations of the living; the friends and relatives of the residents and the general public. So you have to mow and trim and weed and fix the damaged markers and pick stuff up and keep the place looking presentable, and that costs money. In our case it costs an astronomical amount of money, north of $30K/yr.
To further confound the situation, we have a complex set of charges based on several variables, many of which did not cover the costs we incurred to provide the service. Any half-competent businessperson will tell you the only way to balance a budget is to increase revenue or reduce costs, or both. So for several months I worked on trying to reduce our costs which quickly became an exercise in frustration that ended in tears. Several weeks ago our clerk and treasurer collaborated on a fee adjustment which was then presented to, and passed by the Board of Trustees. The increases are significant, but they will still not cover our costs; the intention is to reduce the burden on the general fund as much as is practicable, while still leaving the trials of burial as financially painless as possible.
The new rates were implemented immediately, and Judy, our Clerk, has them available for anyone who would like a copy. Just drop into the office and she’ll fix you right up.
Once again, I encourage all of you to make some time and attend the meetings so you will know what is coming, not just what’s passed. Of course, you are always invited to email, call or visit me at the office….I’m here to serve you, I’m not in it for the money. Besides, I could use the company – they only let me out of the dungeon for bathroom breaks once per day!