County gives funeral homes a 20% rate increase for next two years

County council has decided it should pay its funeral homes the full cost of burial for those who cannot afford their own services.

Council voted on Oct. 28 to provide ten funeral homes located within the county with a 20% fee increase for each of the next two years.

County funeral homes have had an average cost of $5,303 for such funerals, which includes a casket, embalming, removal, funeral coach, clergy car, funeral home facilities for a service or a service at a church, visitation, plus staff services, documentation, a register book, acknowledgment cards and documentation.

The problem is the funeral homes are losing an average cost of $1,982 more for each funeral than what is paid by the county through the social services department.

Social services committee chairman Gord Tosh declared a conflict of interest on the issue because his wife, Wilma, works for a funeral home.

Warden Joanne Ross-Zuj told council, “We’re not paying them enough for an actual burial,” and the directors were seeking an increase of 20% for each of the next two years. That would mean an increase of $664 in 2011 and $797 in 2012.

A report showed a traditional funeral, with a same day visitation and service, was $5,292 in Lanark County and $5,027 in Brantford. Leeds and Grenville County funerals are paid at $4,809, and Oxford County pays $4,745.

On that scale, Wellington is in 13th place for what it pays for such funerals.

Councillor Lynda White said when it comes to economic development, the county wants to encourage businesses that are already operating in Wellington County.

“We cannot expect our businesses to subsidize our social services,” White said, adding that a cost of nearly $2,000 for every social services burial is too much to expect funeral homes to swallow, and “directors want to provide a proper service.”

She moved that the increases be approved, and that was seconded by councillor Chris White.

She added that since this is discretionary spending, Guelph will have the right to decide what it pays funeral directors for those same services.

Councillor Lou Maieron said the report answered a lot of his questions, and the cost is “not a huge amount of money. We’re in the ballpark for what’s being paid in Perth, Huron, etc.”

He wondered, though, if offering 10% per year for four years might not be best for county taxpayers.

Maieron said he was just throwing that out as an idea, because “taxpayers are having a difficult time. Any time I see a 20% increase …”

Councillor John Green said he does not think private business should subsidize the government, and he favoured an increase over two years.

Councillor Jean Innes said she had talked about the issue with a Guelph councillor, “and they are comfortable with this.”

Council then approved the increase.