Mapleton considering 300%, 173% hike in cemetery fees

MAPLETON – Mapleton Township is considering an increase of interment fees at municipally-owned cemeteries for both cremation and non-cremation plots.

At the Nov. 10 council meeting director of finance John Morrison told council the township needed to raise its fee for cremation lots in the cremation gardens by 300 per cent from $375 to $1,500. Similarly, the non-cremation lots per grave would go up 173% from $825 to $2,250.

The new fees would take effect on Jan. 1.

“The report presented to council is trying to address our care and maintenance fund and its shortfall and ability to fund in perpetuity the care and maintenance of the cemetery lots we have in the township,” Morrison said.

“The approach we’re taking here tonight, is a good step and a rational step in trying to correct that without punishing those who have yet to come and purchase and yet not burdening the next generation with the cost of maintenance.”

The township owns two cemeteries: Drayton Cemetery outside of Drayton and Hollen Cemetery in Moorefield.

Morrison said the new fees were set by projecting the current cost of maintaining the plots forward in time 100 years.

“So the concept would be that if we were to make someone who’s purchasing the lot at least maintain that lot for 100 years at $4 we should be able to generate, over the long run, sufficient revenues for perpetuity and that’s why we’re defining perpetuity, at least for the cost purposes, of 100 years.”

Also, the Mapleton master plan indicates that the municipality is going to need between $15,000 and $20,000 per year for maintenance. Currently the municipality is only putting in $5,000.

“You’ll be seeing the budget probably in the next few weeks where in the next few years we will have to increase the budget to $50,000 just to keep in pace with the master plan and some of the expenditures that we want to incur with the capital program,” Morrison said.

“So … I believe this is kind of a rational approach.

“It is radical.”

However, not all of council was on board with the large hike. Councillor Marlene Ottens asked if it was possible to phase in the changes incrementally.

“Would that seem more palatable, I guess, to the public?”

Morrison the municipality could do just that over a three year period.

“I would agree with that,” councillor Dennis Craven said.

“If we did it over three years, I think, John, it would be maybe a little easier to take.”

Ottens also questioned the maintenance cost of the cremation gardens.

“The area itself is very tiny in relation to the entire cemetery, so I’m not sure why there’d be a lot of maintenance costs in that and ideally once the columbarium gets in there it’s just a concrete box, very little maintenance involved in that,” Ottens said. “I would think if we kept that low we would encourage more people to buy those plots rather than the less environmentally responsible bigger full sized plots.”

However, Morrison explained that the maintenance fee is not just for the plot, it’s to keep the overall cemetery going.

“Incurred maintenance does not mean the square footage of the lot, it means all the buildings,” Morrison said. “All the roads, all the activities associated with the maintenance and care of that cemetery.

“So, it may sound counter intuitive but there’s a lot of additional costs that’s not just associated with that small footprint.”

He said that many municipalities are struggling with similar monetary shortfalls for cemeteries.

“If you went and looked at the private sector, you’re looking at three or four thousand dollars, not just two and a half,” Morrison said. “And four dollars per lot right now is probably pretty reasonable given its cost.

“We’re not collecting enough for perpetuity and that’s forever, we need to start thinking about how much of a burden we wish to impose upon that future generation.”

He said in Europe they often define in perpetuity as 50 years.

“After 50 years they’ll sell the lot to somebody else,” he said. “And that’s not what we’re trying to do here.”

Mayor Gregg Davidson said the municipality has to ensure it’s not shortchanging itself for the future.

“I’m glad you brought this up to look at this and talk about this as a something we have to do now for the future of our community and what we’re going to need down the road, not just what we’re looking at for today,” he said.

On Nov. 13 Mapleton issued a press release that stated council intends to adopt the revised fees and charges for cemeteries at the Dec. 8 council meeting scheduled for 7pm on Zoom.

“Comments submitted by mail or email regarding the proposed revisions to the cemetery fees and charges may be submitted to the municipal clerk no later than 5pm on Dec. 2,” the press release stated.

“Those doing so are entitled to speak as part of the Dec. 8  council meeting.”