Mount Forest cemetery fees increasing; entrance repairs expected this summer

KENILWORTH – Wellington North staff began exploring a full-cost-recovery model for the Mount Forest cemetery during the winter, with subsequent reports to council on fee increases needed to get there, and historical operating costs, comparisons with other cemeteries, and a proposed increase schedule.

“Overall, average revenues totalled approximately $53,600 with average expenses totalling approximately $128,500 – resulting in an average operating cost of $74,900,” township clerk Karren Wallace stated in a March 11 report to council.

Wallace compared 2023 financials for Mapleton, Guelph/Eramosa, Shelburne and Minto and found overall average revenues were around $50,000 with expenses slightly over $91,000. The average operating cost was estimated at $42,000 that year.

Mount Forest revenue – generated from plot sales, cremations and the like – totalled $268,127 from 2019-23, falling short of covering a total of $642,947 in expenses during the five-year period.

The cost to Wellington North taxpayers in that time was $374,820 once revenue is factored in.

Staff suggested two options for the township to fully recover its costs: phase in fee increases or raise the fees fully this year. 

Council voted last week in favour of a staff-recommended increase phased in over three years.

Graves, niche purchases, and adult burials – with current fees varying between $900 and $1,275 – will increase to slightly more than $1,900 by 2026.

Councillor Sherry Burke was the sole dissenting vote at the March 11 meeting, saying she wanted more information about how much of a fee goes toward maintenance “so that we are transparent and folks understand why we’re raising the fees.”

“I’m not saying that I’m not in support of raising the fees, just not at this time,” she added, suggesting there could be “partnerships” to help alleviate staff time and salaries involved in operating the cemetery.

If fees aren’t raised, Mayor Andy Lennox said, “we’re asking the taxpayers to pick up an inordinate amount.”

Costly repairs

Council also voted to spend $11,000 on repairs and maintenance, including up to $5,000 for new entrance signage.

A cement pillar and sign at the cemetery entrance were damaged this past fall, and raised flower beds were found in need of repair.

A plaque at the flower bed, commemorating late cemetery board member Charles McKeller, will be reinstalled, and the Mount Forest Horticultural Society is tasked with replanting flower beds after the repair.

An iron perimeter fence requires work the township expects to exceed $100,000, however that will be dealt with later.

Earlier in the meeting, Burke remarked on the fence, saying she’s “ashamed” of its state of “terrible disrepair.”

Work on the entrance, raised flower bed, and signage is expected to finished this summer, according to the township.