By Lasca Randels
WARSAW — Rates will go up at Oakwood Cemetery in Warsaw for the first time since 2015.
The price increase was approved in a majority vote at the Oakwood Cemetery Board of Regents meeting Thursday, July 1, with Chris Plack being the only one present to vote in opposition. Oakwood Board Vice President Max Mock was not in attendance.
The cost for full-body burial lots will increase from $400 to $500; grave openings, from $425 to $500; cremation lots from $195-$200 to $250; and deed transfer and trades from $25 to $75.
The biggest price hike involves burial times. The cost for burials that begin after 2:30 p.m. is rising from $225 to $350. The price for a burial with an arrival time later than 4 p.m. was increased from $500 to $1,000.
“I think I’m suffering from just a little bit of sticker shock,” Plack said, questioning the $500 increase for late-day burials.
According to Oakwood Cemetery Sexton Hal Heagy, the fee is meant as a deterrent to discourage after-hours funerals at the cemetery, which requires overtime pay for cemetery employees. Heagy explained there is a Board of Regents rule at Oakwood prohibiting funerals after 4 p.m. that was implemented before he became sexton.
“If we have a funeral come in after 2:30, by the time they’re done talking and gathering, we may not leave until 5 or 6. It’s something I didn’t set, it was set before me,” Heagy said. “It’s just to promote to try to do it during business hours. It’s a penalty and I hope never to use it. It’s just a deterrent is what it is. It’s not something I’m trying to collect…it’s just something (where) I’m trying to enforce a rule…”
Heagy said he has the authority to waive the fee at his discretion in the event of extenuating circumstances.
In another matter, the board approved the 2022 cemetery budget.
Many line items remained the same, such as repairs/maintenance, office supplies, professional services, and gas, electric, water and storm billing. Salaries/wages went up 3.5%, employee benefits were up 1.8% and operating supplies increased by 16%.
“The big drop is our communication & transportation,” Heagy said. “The IT committee and Joe (Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer) have decided to put that central and it will come out of the budget at city hall.”
That decision decreased the communication & transportation category by 26%.
The total budget estimate for 2022 is $746,167, which is a 2% decrease from the 2021 budget.
Plack questioned why cemetery rates are being increased despite a 2% decrease in the overall budget.
“The reason to go up is just to kind of maintain,” Heagy said, explaining that rather than raise rates by $20 or so every year, he has opted instead to have a rate increase every few years. “My goal has always been to decrease spending if I can, but you’re always going to have labor costs, you’re always going to have insurance and that kind of stuff.”
Heagy said some reasons for the rate increase include rising concrete and labor costs, fluctuating medical/insurance rates for new employees and continued efforts for beautification of the cemetery.
“The guys do a great job out there and I think we offer quite a bit. It’s not just a cemetery, it’s a park. I mean we do a lot of stuff and I do spend money to keep it nice, so I guess it’s just kind of a balance. If we have more revenue coming in, then it takes less taxpayers’ money to do it,” Heagy said.
The Board also approved an underground co-mingling cremains vault. The request was initially presented in February, but an official vote was delayed due to lack of a quorum at the next several meetings.
Plack asked the Board if it would be possible to adopt the online attendance policy used by city council in an effort to avoid this type of delay in the future.
“It really bothers me that these folks…I’m guilty, I miss meetings – it bothers me that these folks were held up by this whereas if we had the online chair we could have simply made sure we had our quorum online,” Plack said.
“I would absolutely agree with that,” said Board President Arthur Brown.
Heagy said no vote was necessary since approval and setup for virtual attendance are already in place. The Board will begin using the online attendance option at future meetings.
In other news:
- The retaining wall in Section 29 is complete.
- The next meeting will be 5 p.m. Aug. 5.